Always Plead Not Guilty at Arraignment

Plead not guilty at arraignment hearing

Earlier this month, a man accused in the Elizabethtown shooting of another man plead not guilty at arraignment in Hardin County, Kentucky.  The alleged shooter was arrested after a manhunt resulting from a shooting that occurred at a Super Bowl party.  The victim later died from the gunshot wounds.

What is an Arraignment Hearing?

An arraignment hearing is part of the criminal court process.  Under the Constitution, if you’ve been arrested, you have a right to know why you’re being held.  The 6th Amendment (your right to a speedy trial) prevents law enforcement agencies from holding you without just cause.  If that process is delayed, you may be able to claim that your rights have been denied.

During an arraignment hearing the judge will read your charges and you’ll have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.  I almost always advise my clients to plead not guilty at arraignment.  Even if there were multiple witnesses, the State still needs to prove what happened and make a strong enough case to convict you.

If you simply plead guilty, it limits the strategy and tactics a criminal defense attorney can use to help you. 

Depending on your charges, a not guilty plea may enable your lawyer to begin negotiating down the charges.  If you’re going to be held in jail, your lawyer can do his best to see that any potential bond is set at the lowest possible level.  This may enable you to avoid staying in jail, while the process moves forward.

It’s a good idea to always plead not guilty at arraignment because it simply provides you and your lawyer time to review the facts, the evidence and begin working to discredit the charges against you.  If you plead guilty, you’re admitting to the crime.

It’s not a question of whether you committed the crime.  It’s about giving you and your attorney options in how to deal with the charges related to the crime. 

Again, it’s about what the State can prove.  Often, the prosecutors are willing to strike a deal to secure a conviction, even to a lower-level of charges, just so they can say they won the case.

An experienced Kentucky criminal defense lawyer is a negotiator.  He or she will use all of the tools in the toolbox to work within the limits of the law to protect clients.  Sometimes, this is similar to a poker game.  There may be some bluffing going on.  At the same time, your lawyer may just have an ace up his sleeve.  Either way, it’s up to the prosecutors to call the bet.  If done properly, the right arguments and positioning may just cause them to fold.

Link to news story about the Elizabethtown shooting: