If I did it, can I plead “not guilty”?
Not only “can” you still plead “not guilty,” in most cases you probably should. Entering a “not guilty” plea is not only an acceptable practice in the Ogden criminal courts, it is a fundamental part of the criminal justice system.
DO NOT plead guilty without first consulting an attorney regarding your rights. Having an experienced defense attorney assist you in understanding the various strategies that may be available for defending your case is crucial. When facing prosecution for misdemeanor or felony charges in the Ogden criminal court system or elsewhere in Utah, you need an experienced criminal attorney.
Contact us today to see how we can help. We are pleased to provide defense representation to clients in Ogden and throughout Utah.
Presumption of Innocence & Burden of Proof
The constitutionally-mandated presumption of innocence requires that a jury consider a person to be innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. Under both state and federal constitutions, a person charged with a crime must be viewed by the jury as innocent until sufficient evidence is presented to persuade them otherwise. By entering a plea of “not guilty” a defendant preserves this important constitutional right.
At trial, the prosecutor bears the burden of proof – meaning that the government bears the responsibility of presenting evidence of each and every element of a charge, sufficient to convince a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, of the defendant’s guilt. A defendant does not have to testify, present witnesses or other evidence, or even make arguments to the jury or judge. (In most cases, this is NOT a smart strategy, but it is legally permissible.) If the prosecutor is unable to present the witnesses and evidence necessary to persuade the jury, then a not guilty verdict should be rendered
A defendant who enters a guilty plea (or no contest,) forgoes the right to a trial and gives up the presumption of innocence. Waiving the presumption of innocence results in a conviction that can carry serious consequences.
Plea Negotiations – Part of the Criminal Justice System
An important part of the Utah criminal justice system is the plea negotiations process. The legislature has established maximum penalties for a multitude of crimes. But true justice is not always best-served by imposing the maximum penalty. In many cases, a prosecutor may be persuaded to seek something less than the most serious penalties or charges that might apply to a case.
When a defendant enters a plea of not guilty, (even when the defendant wants to “accept responsibility”) both sides have the opportunity to fully and appropriately assess the case. Conversely, when a defendant enters a plea of guilty without first consulting with defense counsel, before obtaining full discovery, and prior to engaging in meaningful discussions and negotiations with the prosecutor, both sides are deprived of the opportunity to determine whether a middle-ground resolution might be more appropriate.
The Right to Consult with Counsel before Entering a Plea
Utah courts recognize preserving and protecting the defendant’s right to consult with an attorney before entering any plea. Rule 11 of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a court cannot require a defendant to enter any plea (guilty, no contest, or not guilty) until the defendant “has had a reasonable time to confer with counsel.” The rule also provides, and the Court of Appeals has affirmed, that a trial court “may not accept” a guilty or no contest plea where a defendant is not represented by an attorney unless the court specifically finds that the defendant has “knowingly waived the right to [an attorney] and does not desire [an attorney].” See, State v. Ostler, 2000 UT App 28.
Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney
When faced with prosecution for a crime in Utah, DO NOT enter any plea without first consulting with a criminal defense lawyer. Doing so is vital to protecting your rights.
Contact us now to see what an experienced criminal defense attorney can do for you. We are pleased to provide criminal defense representation to clients in the Ogden area and throughout Utah.