If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Los Angeles, you will be required to appear before the Judge. The first appearance before the Judge is called an arraignment. At the arraignment you are asked to enter a plea after you have been explained the charges against you and the potential consequences. You have the option of entering a plea of guilty, not guilty and no contest.
At the first court appearance, you will also be given an offer, referred to as a plea bargin by the Prosecutor. The offer generally means that if you plead guilty on that day, you will be sentenced to what they are offering you. This offer is a better deal than what you could potentially get if you go to trial. The incentive is to close your case and have you enter a plea so that they can avoid going to trial.
If you feel that the offer is a good one, and it is a very good idea to discuss the offer with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney before accepting it, you can enter a plea of guilty or no contest and your case will be completed.
However, if you feel that the chances of your case getting dismissed are higher because there are no facts to find you guilty, you may want to enter a plea of not guilty. It is highly advisable to speak to a legal professional before pleading not guilty and proceeding to trial. They can properly advise you whether the offer given to you at arraignment is the best offer you will get and might not be worth risking it for trial.
If you decide to enter a plea of not guilty and have an attorney representing you, you do not have to appear in court. The attorney may enter the plea for you. However, if you are pleading not guilty, each court will differ on their preference. Oftentimes you will need to appear before the Judge and state that your attorney has explained all of the charges against you, the consequences and the sentence that you are being given. You can also fill out what is called a Tahl waiver. A Tahl waiver outlines all of the charges against you, and explains what the potential and actual consequences may be as well as what you are being sentenced. You must read it carefully, initial each statement and have it notarized. The Tahl waiver may then take you place in Court and you do not have to appear.
A plea of guilty is taken very seriously by the Courts. They must make sure that you fully understand what you are pleading to and what the potential consequences may be. They will always ask attorneys, if you are represented, whether they took the time to explain each statement to the person being charged. It is important that you have an experienced Los Angeles Criminal lawyer to fully and thoroughly explain to you what it means to plead guilty. It is necessary to assure that your rights are protected and that the decision is in your best interests.