A plea of guilty involves you acknowledging your guilt for an offence, and is ordinarily a matter to be taken into account by the court when sentencing you. A plea of guilty is evidence of some remorse and also saves the court and the community the expense of a lengthy contested trial.
You can enter a plea of guilty at any time, but doing so makes it very difficult to change your mind later. It is strongly recommended that you do not enter a plea of guilty to anything until you have received proper legal advice.
Our experienced solicitors can provide you with legal advice on the charges against you before you make the important decision of how you will plead.
You might feel you are guilty of a particular charge, being unaware of the fact that a lesser charge is more appropriate or available. In other circumstances, you might be unaware that there is a defence available to the charge. Some people plead guilty to charges (or additional charges) they have not committed, in order to protect their partners or children, or as part of a bargain with police. In these cases, take some time to fully consider all the implications of your act. Remember that it is very difficult (although not impossible) to appeal a conviction which results from a plea of guilty. Once you have a conviction, it will appear on your police record and may have implications for such things as your future employment and travel prospects.
Some of the advantages of pleading guilty are:
- you may receive a lesser sentence for pleading guilty early, and for saving the time and expense of the courts and witnesses (this can be up between 25% – 50% off in some circumstances);
- you are likely to spend less time in court and possibly endure less embarrassment and stress;
- you may be able to put the matter behind you, deal with it more quickly and get on with the important matters in your life.
The disadvantages of pleading guilty include:
- you may lose the opportunity of being found ‘not guilty’ or being acquitted of an offence;
- it is difficult (although not impossible) to appeal the conviction;
- the conviction will remain on your police record, unless it is quashed (which is very difficult to achieve); or
- you may lose the opportunity of negotiating a lesser charge and/or more favourable facts.