You’ve seen in it movies, on television, and in the newspapers—whenever there’s a trial, the defendants almost always plead “not guilty”. Non-admission to any crime is not always about lying or trying to ignore the law, but about strategy.
The Texas court system, for example, has one of the highest conviction rates in the country. One study notes that The Lone Star State has an average conviction rate of 84%. Texas, however, also topped the list of overturning wrongful convictions, with 13 exonerations in 2013. This just shows the importance of proper strategy and defense in criminal trials.
So, why is it many people plead not guilty, regardless of their innocence or guilt.
You Can’t Implicate Yourself
The Fifth Amendment guarantees you right against self-incrimination. That means you do not have to plead guilty, even if you are.
This boils down to one important element of your Miranda Rights: the right to remain silent. Houston-based criminal defense lawyers from DNTrialLaw.com and other lawyers always stress the importance of remaining silent during interrogations without a lawyer present. This is because anything you say to the police can and will be misconstrued to support the prosecution’s case against you.
You’re Letting the Prosecutors Do Their Job
Pleading not guilty is not really lying or even dishonest. Doing so means you’re just letting the prosecutor do their job; that is, you’re giving them the burden of proving you actually did a crime. You are formally denying any guilt regarding each and every element of the charge against you.
The ‘no guilty’ plea is a way of asking the prosecutor to present evidence that confirms all the elements of the charge against you beyond reasonable doubt.
You are Innocent until Proven Guilty
Or more accurately, until the government proves you are guilty. When you are charged with a crime, you have the right to hold the government’s prosecution team to their obligation of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
This means that, technically, you can honestly plead not guilty because, in the blindfolded eyes of Lady Justice, you are innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, pleas are practically an “all or nothing” choice. Entering any plea other than “not guilty” means you are, in effect, admitting to the facts and evidence the prosecutor is supposed to prove beyond reasonable doubt.
Strategy is what wins a case in any criminal defense. So when in doubt, it’s best to shut your mouth and talk to your lawyers before saying anything.