How to Plead at Arraignment

Today's question comes from Fort Myers. The question is:

"I was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. It wasn't mine but it was found in my car. Should I just plead guilty or no contest?"

The answer is NO! The first court date for many arrested people after they get out of jail is going to be their "arraignment," which is when they are informed of the charges and they enter a plea. When you go to an arraignment, the only thing you should plead to the judge is NOT GUILTY.

If you plead guilty or no contest at the arraignment, then you give up all of your rights. Although you may want to get this case done and over with, keep in mind you are giving up the right to have a lawyer examine the evidence in your case, to consider all possible legal defenses or technicalities, and to try and negotiate a better deal with the prosecutor.

Cases involving possession can be very technical, especially when the possession is not actual (in your hand or pocket) and is instead constructive. Defense lawyers are also always concerned with search and seizure issues. Were the police allowed to stop your car? Were the police allowed to search it? Can the charge even be proven? These are all significant questions that can't be answered at an arraignment but can be addressed by an attorney at a later time,

In order to preserve all of your options and to maximize the chances of getting a great outcome, always plead NOT GUILTY at your arraignment.