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Should I Plead Guilty or Not Guilty to a Criminal Offence?

Pleading guilty or not guilty will determine whether or not you proceed to trial.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence by the police and are due to appear in court, you will have the option to plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ at your court hearing.

As this decision to plead guilty or not guilty will determine whether or not you proceed to trial, it is one that should be taken seriously. If you are considering whether to plead guilty or not guilty, it is important to contact an experienced lawyer to help assess the unique circumstances of your case and advise you on your best course of action.

Here, we discuss what can happen depending on whether you plead guilty or not guilty to a criminal offence.

What Happens If I Plead Guilty?

When considering a guilty plea, it is important to note that a guilty plea is a legal admission of guilt. This means that it may result in you receiving a criminal conviction, which can affect future employment prospects. However, a guilty plea does not automatically mean that you will receive a conviction, so if you are considering pleading guilty you should discuss with your lawyer a strategy designed to avoid a criminal conviction.

You should make sure that you do not enter a guilty plea before you have received legal advice, and also ensure that you fully understand the police version of events which is being used to prosecute you.

If you decide to plead guilty, you or your lawyer will announce your plea to the court at your hearing. The court will then hear a summary of the police evidence, after which you or your lawyer will be able to tell the magistrate or judge about personal circumstances which may have influenced your actions.

After this, the judge or magistrate will decide on your penalty.

Pleading guilty is considered by courts to be a mitigating factor, meaning that it has a tendency to reduce the severity of sentencing.

Courts tend to look favourably on guilty pleas when considering sentencing for two main reasons:

  • A guilty plea may be viewed as an indicator of genuine remorse
  • Guilty pleas save time and money for the criminal justice system by avoiding the need for a trial

The likelihood of a guilty plea to reduce your sentence will also depend on various other factors, including the timing of the guilty plea (i.e. how early you decided to plead guilty.)

What Happens if I Plead Not Guilty?

If you plead not guilty, you are asserting your innocence of the charge. Your case will then proceed to trial and the prosecution will try to prove your guilt in court. If you plead ‘not guilty’ then the court will consider you innocent until your guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The burden of proof will be on the police or prosecution to provide evidence to the court demonstrating that you are guilty of the offence.

If you are considering a plea of not guilty, it is important to seek legal advice beforehand. A criminal lawyer will be able to determine whether the circumstances of your case warrant a plea of not guilty, and will also be able to assess the police evidence against you and explain to you exactly what the police will need to demonstrate in court in order to prove you guilty of the offence.

If you do decide to plead not guilty, you should work with your lawyer to prepare your case that you will present in court. An experienced lawyer will be able to help you devise a trial strategy which encompasses evidence, witnesses, character testimony and your presentation in court.

Considering Whether to Plead Guilty or Not Guilty?

If you have been charged with a criminal offence and are considering whether to plead guilty or not guilty, you should seek legal advice immediately.

At Guest Lawyers we offer free initial consultations (including in prisons) to assist with guilty or not guilty pleas. We act for all persons required to appear before the Magistrates and Supreme Court. We also conduct appeals in the Court of Appeal and High Court.

Our team of Brisbane criminal lawyers are licensed to practice across Australia and often travel to other states and territories to do so. Please get in touch with our lawyers to see how we can assist with your matter.