The Implications Of Pleading Guilty

People may think that pleading guilty will simply speed up the sentencing process.

I often tell people that if they are going to plead guilty, they need a lawyer just as much as they would if they were going to fight the charge, because if you plead guilty, there are some important factors that need to be considered.

First of all, what exactly are the facts you are admitting to? Any sentence you receive is going to be based on the facts of the case. For instance, a judge does not simply sentence someone for robbery. The judge will consider the type of robbery that occurred. Is it a bank, is it an individual, is it a big company, was there a weapon used? He will look at all these factors, so you need to be careful of what facts you are admitting to when you plead guilty. Also, what is the Crown seeking? Are they looking for a jail sentence? You need to consider what the judge will do, and what the Crown will ask the judge to do, if you do plead guilty. You will need a lawyer to help you understand all these considerations.

Second, is there any chance that the charges could be withdrawn? Can you negotiate a plea bargain? In that case, a lawyer is essential, because your lawyer can more effectively negotiate a favourable plea bargain. Often it is in one’s best interest to plead guilty if you can get a plea bargain, but you, as the accused, are not in a position to determine that. A lawyer must assess the strength of the evidence in the Crown’s case before you make a decision.

You should not rush to plead guilty, even if you feel guilty. A lawyer may say: yes, you feel guilty but the crown attorney does not have enough evidence to prove guilt against you, so you may be able to win the case on a technicality. You might win the case because the test is always whether or not the Crown can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

A lawyer knows the system. He knows who the judges are, who is sympathetic, who has dealt leniently with these kinds of charges in the past. This can also be a factor in deciding whether or not to plead guilty, but only an experienced lawyer can offer that kind of insight.

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If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Ottawa, Ontario Region, contact Engel & Lewandowski Barristers & Solicitors for a consultation.

This article is taken from a June 20, 2008 interview with Bruce Engel, Criminal Lawyer with Engel & Lewandowski Barristers & Solicitors, an Ottawa, Ontario Criminal Law Firm. Note that laws vary from province to province. Please consult with a lawyer in your own area to be sure of the laws and specific issues in your own jurisdiction.