When you are charged with a crime, one of the first interactions you will have with the criminal justice system is a hearing where you are informed of the charges against you and you are asked to enter a plea. There are different options for how you can plead, and the decision you make will have a profound impact on how the case moves forward. It is essential that you make the proper choice when deciding how to plead when you are faced with charges, because a point can be reached in the criminal proceedings when it becomes too late for you to withdraw a guilty plea.
Attorneys at LV Criminal Defense provide representation to clients accused of crimes. Whenever possible, you should give our award-wining legal team a call before you actually must enter a plea. We can carefully review the accusations against you, the evidence the prosecutor has, defenses that may be available, and the possible penalties that could result from the charges. Armed with the essential information that determines what the likelihood of different case outcomes is, we can assist you with creating a legal strategy aimed at avoiding penalties and conviction, or reducing the penalties to the minimum consequences possible. In some cases, this means pleading guilty and in others it means trying for an acquittal. Contact us today to talk with a Las Vegas criminal attorney to find out more.
There are many different laws under Nevada’s code of criminal procedure which are related to how you can plead when faced with charges and related to what happens after you have entered a plea. There are also rules for when a plea can be withdrawn. For example, Nevada Revised Statute section 176.165 sets forth the rules for when you are able to withdraw a plea of guilty; a plea of guilty but mentally ill; or a plea of nolo contendere.
A guilty plea means you are admitting the truths of the allegations against you. You must attest in open court that you have been accused of breaking the law and committing the crime you have been charged with. A plea of guilty but mentally ill means you admit guilt but were impaired by mental illness at the time of the incident; it is not the same as an insanity plea in which you argue you are not guilty because you were not sane enough at the time of the criminal incident to form the requisite intent to commit a crime. Finally, a plea of nolo contendere means you plead no contest. You agree to accept punishment but neither admit nor deny guilt for the alleged crime.
When you enter any of these three pleas (guilty; guilty but mentally ill; or nolo contendere), this results in your case moving on to the sentencing phase. Penalties are imposed by the court for the crime which you have admitted you are guilty of committing or that you have agreed to accept punishment for. Before you decide to plead guilty, you need to realize at what point your decision becomes a permanent one that you cannot back away from.
According to N.R.S. 176.165, the time has passed to change your mind on a guilty plea if you withdraw the plea before you are sentenced or before imposition of sentence is suspended. A motion to withdraw the plea has to be filed with the court before either of these things happen. If you have been sentenced, it is too late to later go back and decide to plead not guilty and fight the charges. The only exception, as defined in N.R.S. 176.165, is when the court needs to set aside the judgment of conviction and permit a defendant to withdraw a plea because doing so is necessary to correct “manifest injustice.”
The rule makes clear that you cannot change your mind after sentencing, which is unfortunate as you may plead guilty in hopes you will get a lighter sentence and then be unable to change your mind when harsh penalties are imposed upon you. You need to make sure you do not jeopardize your future by making the decision to plead guilty when you could have better alternatives, so you should always speak with an experienced Las Vegas defense firm before you make any decision on how to plead.
There is tremendous pressure in some cases for defendants to plead guilty because prosecutors want to ensure they keep conviction rates high. In fact, Human Rights Watch published a scathing report on the ways in which federal prosecutors were essentially coercing defendants in drug cases to plead guilty by threatening them with charges for crimes carrying lengthy mandatory minimum sentences. Whether you have been charged with a state or federal crime, the prosecutor in your case may try to convince you that the outcome of a trial is likely to be dire for you if you don’t simply admit guilt.
The problem is, you don’t want to give up your chance to avoid conviction if acquittal is a possibility. You need a truly informed assessment of your case, including the risks and possible advantages of pleading not guilty versus pleading guilty. This evaluation needs to specific to your situation and you need a lawyer with the knowledge, skill and experience to give you really good advice on your options.
LV Criminal Defense can help. We have a track record of helping defendants to successful get acquittals and to successfully negotiate very favorable plea deals, often resulting in moderate penalties even when serious consequences were possible. We will assist you in deciding what plea option is best and, if you decide to plead not guilty, will help you to make the strongest case possible for acquittal. Our experience negotiating plea deals with prosecutors is also unparalleled, so getting help is important even for guilty pleas.
Give us a call today to talk with our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers to find out more about how we can help you.