When you are arraigned after being indicted or after an information is filed accusing you of criminal acts, you will need to enter a plea. The plea that you choose to enter is going to be determinative of how the rest of your case plays out. If you enter a guilty plea, you will be sentenced for the crime and your case will be resolved when your sentence is served. If you enter a not guilty plea, a criminal trial against you will move forward and you could potentially be found guilty or could avoid conviction if you are able to introduce reasonable doubt or successfully raise an affirmative defense.
At LV Criminal Defense, our legal team can help you to determine what plea is the best one based on the specifics of your circumstances. Sometimes, it makes sense to try to negotiate a plea agreement because you can limit penalties by convincing the prosecutor to reduce charges or recommend leniency. In other situations, it is a better choice to fight the charges because there is a good chance of avoiding conviction entirely. You need to carefully evaluate the law, the evidence against you, and the evidence you can present in your defense when deciding how to plead. An experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer at our firm can offer you knowledgeable advice on which option is likely to lead to the best overall outcome for you.
Nevada Revised Statute section 174.035 lists the types of pleas that defendants can enter into in a criminal case in the state of Nevada. You may plead not guilty if you want to fight charges. You can plead guilty and admit you broke the law, but should do this only if you have spoken with an attorney about negotiating the most favorable possible plea agreement. You could also plead guilty but mentally ill if you wish to argue that you were not of sound mind and did not understand the criminality of your actions at the time of the alleged offense. Finally, you could plead no contest or nolo contendere if you want a plea deal but don’t want to actually admit that you broke the law. You can only plead no contest with the consent of the court. The court also has discretion to refuse to accept either a guilty plea or an insanity plea.
If you enter a plea of guilty by written plea agreement, there is a specific form your plea must take. If you enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere orally, the court will personally address you to make sure that you understand the nature of the charge and the consequence of admitting your guilt. You will need to answer this question directly. If you are pleading guilty to an offense with a maximum prison sentence exceeding 10 years or to an offense that probation is not permitted for, the plea bargain has to be in writing, signed by you, your attorney, and the prosecuting attorney.
Sometimes, you can plead guilty and still preserve your right to appeal a decision made on a pre-trial motion, as long as the court and the district attorney consent. When this happens, you are allowed to withdraw your plea if you prevail on appeal.
If your intention is to plead guilty but mentally ill, you must enter this plea at least 21 days before the date that your criminal trial is set to begin. It is your burden to prove that you had a disease of the body or mind causing you to be in a delusional state that either prevented you from understanding the criminal actions you took or that prevented you from understanding that your conduct was wrong and illegal. Those who plead guilty by reason of insanity are subject to the same procedures and penalties as anyone else who pleads guilty except as otherwise provided by statute.
In many situations, defendants who have been accused of breaking the law will decide it makes sense to avoid a trial and to admit they violated the rules in exchange for a prosecutor recommending leniency. Prosecutors may be willing to offer defendants incentive to plead guilty to their charges because then there is no need to expend resources or time on a trial and there is no chance that a defendant will escape at least some responsibility for breaking the law.
N.R.S. 174.061 sets forth some of the rules in situations where prosecutors and defendants negotiate plea deals. For example, under N.R.S. 174.061, it is permissible for a prosecuting attorney to recommend a lighter sentence in exchange for a defendant agreeing to testify against others. However, such agreements become void if a defendant provides false testimony. The agreement must also be in writing, and the agreement cannot be contingent upon the testimony leading to a specific conclusion, nor can a prosecutor limit the testimony that a defendant gives.
N.R.S.174.065 also details when a plea deal that a prosecutor and a defendant agree to can specify the degree of the crime the defendant is admitting guilt to. When a prosecutor and defendant have negotiated a plea deal which the prosecuting attorney consents to in open court and which the court approves, a defendant cannot be charged with a higher degree crime or faced with a higher degree punishment than that specified in the plea deal. If a defendant is pleading guilty to murder, the plea agreement can specify that the defendant will not face the death penalty.
You need to understand what the different implications are for different pleas under Nevada law and you need to make an informed determination about how to plead when you have been charged with a crime. Call LV Criminal Defense today to speak with an experienced member of our legal team who can carefully review all of the facts of your case and who can offer invaluable advice on which plea is right for you.