When the only way to go free is to plead guilty
How to Plead Guilty by Mail
In some courts, you have the ability to plead guilty to a crime by completing a form and mailing it in to the court. If this is an option for you, then you should get the form and complete it. But before pleading guilty, you should seriously consider whether or not you might want to plead not guilty instead. A guilty plea can carry many negative consequences, which a lawyer can advise you about.
Preparing to Plead Guilty
Decide why you want to plead guilty.Before pleading guilty, you should think about the consequences and whether or not you have a strong case in your defense. There is no reason to rush into a guilty plea. Instead, you should self-assess:
- Are you guilty?
- Were there mitigating circumstances? For example, if you were caught speeding on the way to the hospital, you might be able to argue to a judge that you don’t deserve the speeding ticket.
- Do you have evidence that supports your position? If the only evidence is your own testimony, then you probably have a weak case. However, if witnesses saw that you didn’t do it, then your case is much stronger.
Think about meeting with a lawyer.You might want to meet with an attorney to decide whether or not you should plead guilty. A lawyer can help assess your case and also advise you on the consequences of pleading guilty. Some consequences include:
- The guilty plea will be a public record. If you apply for a job, the employer could find the conviction and not give you the job.
- If you plead guilty to a felony, then you might lose a professional license.
- A guilty plea could disqualify you from certain public benefits.
Find a lawyer.Should you want to meet with a lawyer, you can find one by using the referral service coordinated by your state’s bar association. You can search for criminal defense attorneys and call for a consultation. Typically, consultations are offered for a reduce fee or for free.
- You might be worried about the costs of hiring a lawyer. You should realize that many states now allow attorneys to offer “unbundled” legal services. With this type of service, attorneys perform only the tasks that you give them. For example, you can pay a lawyer solely for a half hour of advice.You should ask lawyers if they offer this service.
- If you are facing at least six months in prison for the crime, you are entitled to a lawyer. You should ask for a public defender if you can’t afford to hire your own lawyer.
- To get a public defender, you will probably have to complete an application. Ask the court clerk for an application. Typically, the application will ask about your family’s income and monthly expenses.
Check if you can plead by mail.You probably can’t plead guilty by mail to every criminal charge. For example, in New York, you can plead guilty by mail to only Public Consumption of Alcohol or Public Urination. If you are charged with a different crime, then you need to show up to court on the date and time listed on your summons.
- In Jackson Township, New Jersey, you can only plead guilty to non-traffic cases.
- The summons you receive should tell you whether you can plead guilty by mail.
Filling out the Guilty Plea
Get the form.The court should send you the form. On most forms, you should have the option of pleading “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.”If the form is not sent automatically to you, then call the court clerk and ask for the form. You may also stop into the court.
- To find the clerk’s phone number, check your phone book or perform an Internet search.
Complete the form.Each form will request different information. Nevertheless, most forms should ask for the following:
- the summons number and date issued
- your name, address, and phone number
- your plea (i.e., Guilty)
- your signature and the date
Write a check.You will be told how much you have to pay the court. Generally, courts will accept checks or money orders.Write the summons number on the check or money order. Do not send cash.
Mail the form back.You should return the form (along with payment) to the address provided.Mail it certified mail, return receipt requested so that you will know when it has been delivered.
- You shouldn’t wait too long before returning the plea form. The deadline should be specified on the form.
- Keep a copy of the form for your records.
Receive notice of judgment.The court should send you a copy of the judgment, which is your conviction.If you do not receive a copy within a couple of weeks, then you should call the court clerk.
- Always make sure that the court has your current address. If you move, then the notice of judgment will be sent to the wrong address.
Video: Why Innocent People Plead Guilty | Adnan Sultan | TEDxFurmanU
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