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Better Understanding Arraignments and Pleas

 Posted on February 07, 2024 in Criminal Law

Blog ImageOne key step following the arrest and charge of a crime in Illinois is the arraignment. It is there where you will be formally charged with your crimes and given the chance to enter a plea. Ideally, before your arraignment, you will already have retained the legal counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Defining a Criminal Arraignment

When charged with a crime, a defendant’s first courtroom appearance is an arraignment. It serves to inform the defendant of the charges that they face and provides the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, guilty but mentally ill, not guilty, or no contest. The defendant will also be notified of their rights which include the right to an attorney and the right to a trial by a jury of their peers.

Entering Your Plea

In an arraignment, you will be given the chance to enter your plea for the charges being lobbied against you. Each option can lead to a moderately different outcome in your case.

Not guilty - A plea of denial of the charges a defendant is facing. A not guilty plea is the defendant asserting their innocence and now exercising their right to a trial. At trial, the prosecution will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crimes committed. A plea of not guilty affords the defendant with the presumption of innocence and allows them to see a possible acquittal but risks a harsher sentence if they are found guilty.

Guilty - If not guilty is a denial, then guilty is an admission of committing the charges being faced. The defendant waives their right to a trial and requests a judge hand down a sentence. A guilty plea can also be part of a plea bargain where the prosecution agrees to reduce the charges or recommend the judge provide a more lenient sentence, which is not guaranteed. A plea of guilty can negate a lengthy and expensive trial or offer a sentencing “cushion” for those who are guilty but removes the opportunity for the accused to defend themself from a criminal conviction on record.

Guilty but mentally ill (GBMI) - Not to be confused with an insanity defense, a GBMI is a guilty plea that assures the defendant that they will receive medical treatment while in prison. The court may hand this sentence down to those who lose a court case that goes to trial using the insanity defense.

No contest (nolo contendere) - If the court allows it, a nolo contendere is similar to a guilty plea where a judge’s sentence is requested without the need for a trial. However, a no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt. Instead, it is an acceptance of the consequences of the charges. It allows the defendant to expedite the case resolution while avoiding potential civil liability. A no-contest plea will still result in a criminal conviction on record and is generally only used in the case of an Illinois Tax Act violation.

Contact a DuPage County, IL Criminal Defense Attorney

How your arraignment goes may ultimately decide how the rest of your case plays out. To ensure you understand the charges and have a solid defense at trial, you should consult a Wheaton, IL criminal defense lawyer. The Davi Law Group, LLC is at your disposal. For a free consultation to discuss your case, contact our office at 630-580-6373.

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