Should I plead guilty at my first court date?

99% of the time it is not a good idea to plead guilty right up front before you have a chance to negotiate. Most people think that in the criminal system if they accept responsibility and show that they aren’t trying to get out of it, that they recognize they did something wrong, then they’ll get a better deal, a better resolution, or a lesser punishment.

Unfortunately, most of the time it doesn’t work like that because of the way the criminal system is set up. The reason for this is if you go into court and plead guilty on the original charges before you have a chance to explain why things happened the way they did, or give an explanation of your side of the events, then you will be convicted for that crime and the judge will sentence you. Most of the time it will be the standard sentence for that type of charge. Usually, if you don’t have a chance to negotiate or reduce charges or penalties, then the penalty you get will be more severe than the people who plead not guilty at first and negotiate their case or explain their side of the story in order to get a lesser penalty.

Even if you are guilty you should not plead guilty at your first court date until you have a chance to explain your side of the story.

One of the only exceptions would be if the crime that you were charged with were less than what you actually did. If you feel like you could have gotten charged for something more and have spoken with an attorney who also feels like your charges could have been more severe, then it may make sense to plead guilty right away in order to avoid getting hit with the more serious charges later.

Speak to an attorney first, figure out the best strategy for your case, and then you can accept responsibility later if you want. Or there might be a defense you can raise in court to either get you a better deal or get your case dismissed altogether.