Guilty Pleas Law & Legal Definition


Guilty pleas are an admission of blameworthiness by a person accused of a crime. Sometimes guilty pleas are made as part of a plea bargain in which the prosecutor agrees to reduce the charges or the punishment in exchange for the guilty plea. A guilty plea saves the time and expense of a lengthy trial.

Before accepting a plea of guilty the court must do certain things:

Address the defendant and inform him and make certain he understands:

  1. The nature of the charge.
  2. The range of punishment for the offense.
  3. The right to be represented by an attorney, including the fact that defense counsel will be appointed if the defendant cannot afford a lawyer.
  4. The right to a jury trial, including the right to cross-examine witnesses and the right not to be compelled to incriminate oneself.
  5. The fact that all of these rights are given up (except having a lawyer present) if a plea of guilty is made.

Determine that the plea is not the result of force, threats or promises, other than a plea bargain agreement, and is, on the whole, a knowing, voluntary and intelligent act of the defendant. The lack of a voluntary and knowing plea may be the basis for a later plea withdrawal.

Determine that there is a factual basis for the defendant's admission of guilt.

The entire guilty plea proceeding must be conducted in open court and recorded by a court reporter.