In Part One, we made it to the stage of plea deals, and we will move forward from there. When it comes to criminal charges in the State of Texas, there is a lot going on, and the better you understand the basics, the better prepared you will be to help your experienced Temple criminal defense lawyer bring your strongest defense.
After the bargaining stage, you will need to enter a plea in response to the charges brought against you. In nearly every case, there are three plea options available to you, including:
A plea of guilty obviously means that you are admitting to guilt in the matter. Typically, a guilty plea is the result of a plea bargain.
A plea of not guilty does not mean that you are telling the court you are innocent of the crime in question but instead means that you are telling the prosecution to prove its case against you. Ultimately, a jury – or a judge who sits without a jury, which is known as a bench trial – will determine if the state has proven its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
A plea of no contest (or nolo contendere) amounts to something in between a plea of guilty and a plea of not guilty. If you plead no contest, you neither admit nor deny the charges you face. Instead, you relay that you are not going to fight the charges in question. While the judge will treat your plea in exactly the same way he or she would if you had pleaded guilty, it could still have advantages. For example, if you are later tried in a civil case for the consequences of the crime, your plea of no contest cannot be used to prove you committed the crime. A plea of no contest is a legal strategy that should not be entered into without knowledgeable legal counsel.
Invoking Your Right to Remain Silent
No matter how gifted you think you are when it comes to talking your way out of trouble, resist the urge when it comes to facing a criminal charge. You have the right to remain silent, and it is difficult to overstate how important it is for you to invoke this right. By remaining silent, you ensure that you do not inadvertently say something that later comes back to haunt your case. When you do not say anything, there is no possibility that you are giving the prosecution something to use against you.
Your Side of the Story
When an officer asks you to provide your side of the story before he or she makes an arrest, it is not a sign of his or her curiosity in the matter. The officer is attempting to do one of two things that include:
Attempting to obtain a statement from you before he or she arrests you – thus tripping your right to legal counsel
Attempting to get you to say something that tips the balance toward arresting you (if he or she was on the fence)
Not Wanting to Look Dishonest
Far too many people incriminate themselves by giving statements rather than invoking their guaranteed right to remain silent. The overwhelming reason for giving such a statement is avoiding the appearance of being dishonest. Your decision to invoke your right to remain silent is not information that will be shared with the jury, and when the prosecution reviews your interrogation video, all he or she will see is a lack of evidence against you.