How to Plea in Criminal Court

Maricopa County Criminal Defense LawyerHow to Plea (Initial) in Maricopa County Criminal Court

Deciding what type of initial plea to enter in Maricopa County Criminal Courts is one of the most important decisions you will need to make. Each plea has a consequence. You should become familiar with the types of pleas you can initially enter and the potential consequences of your plea. If you have a scheduled Arraignment for an Arizona crime or DUI charge you should consult an Arizona DUI lawyer or Criminal Defense Attorney. You should do this well before your scheduled Arraignment date, to discuss your AZ criminal or DUI charges, defense options, and what type of plea you plan to enter at your hearing. Below are the three possible pleas that a defendant can enter when facing DUI or criminal charges and their effects.

3 Types of Initial Pleas

There are three types of pleas you can enter at your Arraignment. This discussion is about your initial plea. (These are in contrast to “Plea Agreements” or “Plea Bargains” which may be negotiated with the assistance of your AZ criminal defense lawyer toward an acceptable resolution). The three types of initial pleas that can be entered in Arizona criminal or DUI courts are “Not Guilty”, “Guilty”, and “No Contest”.

1. “Not Guilty” – This plea may be entered on your behalf by your Arizona criminal or DUI attorney. If you have not yet retained one, you will get the opportunity to enter this initial plea at your arraignment. If effect, this plea holds that you wish to deny any guilt. In this case, the burden of proof lies with the state and prosecution to prove guilt of the DUI or criminal charge against you. If you enter a plea of “not guilty” at your arraignment, the Judge will set your case for either a pre-trial conference or a formal trial date.

2. “Guilty” - You admit that you are guilty as charged or have committed the act charged in the complaint(s); that the act you committed was a violation of the law; and that you have no legal defense for your actions. In effect, by pleading guilty, you have waived your right to retain a criminal or DUI attorney to defend or challenge the charges against you. The Phoenix AZ Court judge will usually proceed with sentencing for the crime at that time. For Felonies a sentencing hearing will be scheduled by the judge for an advanced date and time

3. “No Contest” – This plea is less often used. In effect, the end result is similar to accepting a guilty plea, but without actually admitting guilt. It is also known as also known as "Nolo Contendere”. By entering this plea you hold, that you are not admitting guilt to a DUI or criminal offense. However, at the same time, you do not wish to challenge the charges or evidence at trial; and will accept the conviction, sentencing and penalties for that charge (without admitting guilt) as ordered by the Judge. The judge will usually proceed with sentencing at this time. In the case of a felony the Judge may set a hearing for a future date for the sentencing.

How to enter an initial Plea for Arizona DUI or Criminal Charges

Court rules in Arizona vary by court, and jurisdiction. But generally you will have an opportunity to enter an initial plea at your Arraignment. If you know prior to your court date, that you will be retaining a private practice Arizona DUI or Criminal lawyer, they will usually file your Plea of “Not Guilty” in advance with the court. If you have retained a private attorney, they will give you further instructions regarding your Arraignment.

Consequences of your initial Plea in Arizona Criminal Court

When facing criminal or DUI charges, many people feel there is not much of the criminal charge processing is within their control. But that is quite the contrary. A defendant has total control over how they wish to plea. You can think of a plea as a compass or road map. You decide which direction your case will go. Every case is unique in its set of circumstances. Some consequences can have long term negative impacts on your future and your freedom. That is why it is so important to discuss your case, or retain an experienced Arizona criminal defense or DUI lawyer well before your court date. In most cases, an AZ criminal lawyer will advise you to plead “Not Guilty”. If retained, generally, your criminal lawyer can enter the “Not Guilty” Plea on your behalf.

Here some reasons an Experienced Criminal Defense or DUI attorney would recommend that you plead “Not Guilty”:

  • The Arizona prosecution has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You do not have to prove you are innocent.
  • You want to challenge the allegations and wish to retain a criminal or DUJI lawyer to defend you.
  • You want to obtain exculpatory evidence (evidence in your favor), witnesses, and testimony that may exist that if presented to the court could lead to a ruling in your favor, or weaken the prosecution’s case against you. Remember, the prosecution is building a case against you and looking for evidence to use against you. They will be conducting an investigation that will lead them to a conviction. If there are flaws in their case, they will rarely if ever educate the court or jury about the weaknesses in their case. The only entity you can count on to do this effectively is a good DUI or criminal defense attorney in Arizona.
  • You want to make sure rights are protected to utilize those rights or defenses. By pleading Not Guilty, you are protecting or preserving them for use in your defense.
  • You want to make sure get fair treatment throughout the process whether or not you are found guilty; or in the event you wish to enter negotiated guilty plea in return for lesser penalties later.
  • There may be defenses or rights you have that your may not be aware of, that if utilized effectively by a good criminal defense lawyer, can lead to a dismissal of your charges, or reduction in penalties.

Why You Should Contact James Novak, Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney if you have a scheduled Arraignment in Maricopa County

If you have been arrested, or have active criminal or DUI charges in Maricopa County, an arraignment date scheduled in Criminal Courts of Phoenix AZ, Tempe AZ, Mesa AZ, Chandler AZ, Scottsdale AZ, or Gilbert AZ, contact the Law Office of James Novak as soon as possible. James Novak is a former prosecutor, and experienced trial lawyer for clients’ defense. The Law Office of James Novak defends criminal and DUI charges exclusively in Maricopa County. James Novak, Attorney at Law will personally speak with you about your case in confidence, and provide you with a free initial consultation. He will provide you with your options for defense and if retained customize an effective defense on your behalf. Contact the Law Office of James Novak (480) 413-1499 for to discuss your charges and defense options today!

Law Office of James Novak
Arizona DUI & Criminal Defense Firm
4500 S. Lakeshore Drive
Tempe, Arizona 85282
DUI, DWI, Drunk Driving, and Criminal Defense
Call (480) 413-1499
James Novak, Attorney at Law