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:
- The nature of the charge.
- The range of punishment for the offense.
- The right to be represented by an attorney, including the fact that defense counsel will be appointed if the defendant cannot afford a lawyer.
- The right to a jury trial, including the right to cross-examine witnesses and the right not to be compelled to incriminate oneself.
- 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.