When and How to Plead
First, Plead Not Guilty. At arraignment, your plea should almost always be NOT GUILTY. The judge will also ask if you want to hire a lawyer and, if so, whether you can afford one. Indigent defendants can obtain a Form 5A: Application for Public Defendant to apply for legal representation. Most municipal courts have these forms available on request. If you use one, try to keep a copy for your records.
Hire a Lawyer.
Review Discovery. Once retained, your lawyer and you should consider changing the not guilty plea only after reviewing discovery — i.e., documents and other information received from the State before trial. After this review:
Plead NOT GUILTY if the prosecutor insists that you plead guilty to an offense for which you are innocent or if sentence on a guilty plea will be about the same as the sentence on a guilty finding after trial or if you are prepared to accept the maximum sentence if you lose.
Plead GUILTY if serious aggravating factors exist and you have real risk of imprisonment or other unacceptable consequence that can be avoided with a guilty plea.
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