One of the single most important decisions that you make when you are charged with a crime is how you should plead. Most defendants have two primary options: pleading guilty or pleading not guilty. There are also other plea options that are available under limited circumstances, but these other plea options are far less common.
Deciding how to plead should be a strategic choice and should not necessarily be based on your actual guilt or innocence. You want your case to end with the best possible outcome, with you facing minimal criminal penalties. A Las Vegas criminal attorney at LV Criminal Defense can help you to carefully assess all of the facts of your situation so you can make the most informed choices about what type of plea makes sense in light of the circumstances.
Nevada Revised Statute 174.035 details the different types of pleas that are available to defendants within the state of Nevada who have been arraigned following an indictment being handed down or information being filed with the court.
The most commonly used pleas are guilty or not guilty. A not guilty plea gives you the chance to try to fight being convicted of the criminal acts that the prosecutor is accusing you of. Actual innocence does not matter and even people who are guilty can and should plead not guilty in many circumstances. All you must do in order for a not guilty plea to be successful is to introduce reasonable doubt into the case being built against you. Unless a jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of your violation of the law, your not guilty plea should lead to a not guilty verdict.
Guilty pleas are also common because admitting guilt gives you a chance to negotiate with a prosecutor to try to lessen your penalties. Prosecutors often offer immunity or a reduced sentence if you testify against co-conspirators and your Las Vegas criminal attorney may be able to work out this type of deal for you.
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Even if you aren’t willing to testify, prosecutors frequently still offer plea deals with reduced penalties if you admit you broke the law. They do this because then the prosecutor doesn’t have to take the case to trial. Your attorney can negotiate the best possible deal for you, which could result in you being charged with a less serious crime than you were initially accused of or which could result in prosecutors dropping some of the charges or recommending a lenient penalty.
There are also two other plea options which are not used as often: guilty but mentally ill and nolo contendere. Guilty but mentally ill is a plea that you use when your mind or body caused a dissociative state that prevented you from knowing you were breaking the law or from being conscious of the actions you were taking. Nolo contendere or no contest means you’re accepting the charges against you and not fighting them, but also not admitting guilt. Some people opt to plea nolo contendere rather than attesting to their guilt in open court, but the prosecutor and court will need to agree to allow this.
Before you are arraigned and must decide how to plead, you should talk with an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer about what plea options may be the best ones for your specific circumstances. LV Criminal Defense can carefully review your situation and the evidence against you and can help you to develop the most strategic response to charges. When you want knowledgeable legal advice about how to lessen or avoid the potential penalties of criminal conviction, give us a call.