If you go to court alone on a minor misdemeanor or traffic ticket court case, chances are that you have no idea what the real penalty for your charge might be. You’ve heard stories, and maybe you found out the maximum penalty, but you know that you probably will not get the max. Fine? Probation? Jail? What?What will you get for that driving on a suspend license charge if you plead guilty? Or how about for that petty theft charge? Jail, probation? Beating? Flogging? Deportation?
Maybe you’re thinking if it is a fine only, “im guilty”. But if it means jail, “im getta a lawyer!”. How will you know what to do if all the judge will tell you is the max penalty? It would be dumb to plead guilty blindly – especially if you may have a defense.
Turns out that there is a trick to getting the judge to tell you what will happen if you plead guilty in advance. You have to ask for an “INDICATED SENTENCE.”
An “indicated sentence” is a complex way of saying preview. (Don’t you wish court was as intuitive as an Iphone?) If you ask for one, almost all judges will give a defendant an Indicated Sentence to think about before pleading guilty or not guilty.
|If you ask for an indicated sentence, the judge will tell you what he or she is thinking about. It’s not binding, but usually it is honest. You can accept or reject an indicated sentence. If you reject it, you are going to get a trial date (or further pre trial date).|
Attorneys ask for an indicated sentence frequently in court. Especially if they do not know what is going on in a case. Sometimes, an attorney will ask for indicated sentences on several potential amendments to a criminal complaint, such as “Your honor, may I have an indicated sentence on a trespassing vs. a petty theft charge?”.
Once an attorney gets an indicated sentence from a judge, he or she can communicate that “realistic, but not guaranteed sentence” to the client for the client to consider – accept the pre trial indicated sentence and plead out – or risk a jury trial and a worse sentence.
But you can ask for an indicated sentence to – even in your first court date without an attorney. If you need more time to consider the chances of winning at trial or to find a defense attorney to help you, dont be afraid to ask for it. You can always get more time to look for an attorney.
If you get an indicated sentence from a judge and have to return to court at a later date to accept it – you need to incorporate your indicated sentence into your plea, like this: “Your honor, I would like to change my plea to guilty based upon the understanding that the court will follow its indicated sentence as stated to me at the last court date.” By doing that, you maintain a reservation in case the judge goes bizerk on you.
If you need to shop for an attorney after going to an arraignment court date alone and getting an indicated sentence, you can ask for a continuance of the arraignment. It is very common for judges to grant defendants in minor misdemeanor and traffic ticket cases time to talk with an attorney before they are forced to enter a plea.
Questions? Leave a comment.