Most people understand what it means to plead guilty to a criminal offense. It is an admission of guilt. In practice, a person will often wind up pleading to a lesser charge as the result of a negotiated plea-bargain (more on that later). With the exception of those people who have personally done it, however, few know how a plea actually goes down in criminal and DUI cases. In this article, we’re going to look at EXACTLY how that happens. First, we’ll do a quick, general examination of pleas and plea bargains. Then, we’ll see, word for word, what actually happens when a plea is taken in court.
There are legal reasons for why a plea is taken the way it is. A person can’t just walk into court and say “Guilty” to some charge or other. Before a Judge can accept a plea, it must be shown that the person is of clear and sound mind, and is proceeding of his or her own free will. In addition, the court must also find that there is what’s called a “factual basis” for the underlying plea. This means a person must be able to tell the Judge what he or she did that actually makes him or her guilty.
These technicalities are designed to prevent a person from taking the blame for someone else, or for something he or she really didn’t do. Also, the court needs to make sure nobody gets pushed into a plea by some outside pressure. In other words, the courts needs to be confident that any plea is solid. By asking the questions set forth below, the courts ensure a person cannot come back later and say something like he or she only pled because his or her lawyer instructed them to do so.