The attorneys at Castan & Lecca, P.C. understand that this is a stressful time. Once charged with a crime, it may seem that there is nowhere to turn for help and all hope is lost. Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The most important thing to remember is that we can help you make the right decisions to resolve this matter. The biggest mistake you can make is to not do anything. This will not go away on its own. If you fail to appear at your court date, you will be arrested and will have to answer to the court as to why you did not appear. This is often a more serious problem than the original citation. Don’t make that mistake.
Your first court date is typically the Arraignment. You will have an opportunity to hear the charges being brought against you and enter a plea: Guilty, Nolo Contendere, or Not Guilty.
Guilty – By entering a guilty plea, you are admitting that you committed the offense of which you are charged and ready to accept the punishment of the State. For misdemeanor charges, this can result in a fine of up to $1,000 per citation and 12 months in jail. When you have an attorney with you, we can work with the state to try to reduce the sentence that will be recommended to the judge. This can include reducing the fine or converting the jail time to probation.
Nolo Contendere – This is often called a “No contest” plea because what you are telling the state is that you recognize the evidence being brought against you, and that while you don’t admit that you committed the offense, you would rather get this matter behind you. The risk of fighting the charges and losing is too great and you would rather take the deal being offered by the state. Important notes: you can only use this plea once every five years for a moving violation (speeding ticket, stop sign, etc.). If the ticket would have resulted in points, a No Contest please will often (not always) keep those points off your record.
Not Guilty – By pleading “Not Guilty” you are telling the state you are innocent and asking them to set a trial date. This gives you the opportunity to cross examine the state’s witnesses, including the police officer who wrote the citation or arrested you. You will also have the opportunity to present evidence on your behalf to show the judge or a jury that you are innocent.
A trial is a complicated process and you should always hire an attorney if you wish to go to trial. Everyone has a right to not use an attorney, but the judge will hold you to the same standards as an attorney who has the additional education and experience to present the evidence to the jury or judge. There are rules and decorum that most individuals are not familiar with. The judge will not go easy on you just because you don’t have a legal background.
This is a complicated process and we at Castan & Lecca, P.C. can represent your interests at every step. Please call us for specific questions about your case. The initial consultation is free.