If you, your criminal defense attorney, and the prosecution have worked out a plea agreement and you are ready to plead guilty, you may worry about what comes next. If the judge accepts the deal, or if they suggest minor changes that both sides agree to, then you will be allowed to plead guilty or no contest in open court.
If the offense is a lesser one, then you will be sentenced at this point. If it is a more serious charge then you may be sentenced at a later date. If you were in custody, then you could be released or kept in custody, depending on the plea and the punishment. Keep reading to learn more about this process and then contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for your free legal consultation.
The Judge Will Review the Plea
The judge does not simply accept every plea bargain that comes along, though they do generally go along with a plea bargain if the sentence that has been agreed upon is within the range of what they consider to be fair. The judge will consider the crime and the criminal record of the defendant when deciding to approve the plea or not.
Judges may take other variables into play. For example, if a judge has seen a defendant in their courtroom before, then they may not accept a plea bargain. If the judge is up for reelection then they may be more conservative when accepting plea bargains. Your criminal defense attorney can carefully consider all factors to advise how likely a particular judge is to accept a plea bargain.
The Judge Will Ensure That You Understand What You Are Doing
Even if the judge feels that the plea bargain is fair, they will generally use a verbal exchange to ensure that you have committed the offense you are pleading guilty to. If you are in a federal court, you will have to testify under oath to facts that establish your guilt.
Judges must also make sure that you understand your rights before you plead guilty. The person pleading guilty must be legally deemed to be doing so “knowingly and with intelligence.” The judge will ensure that you admit to the conduct, that you understand the charges you are pleading guilty to, that you understand the consequences of the plea, and that you understand what you are giving up by pleading guilty.
You Still Need an Attorney Even if You Are Pleading Guilty
A common mistake is for a defendant to assume that since they are pleading guilty, they do not need an attorney. This is false. Your attorney can help ensure you understand your rights and work with the prosecution to get the best plea deal possible. Contact an attorney now to request your free legal consultation.