Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Pleading "not guilty" instead of "mute" when you KNOW its guilty as hell....

I know attorneys who refuse to let their clients plead "not esquire13812/01/17
I hope the people who think so aren't lawyers, because they' toooldtocare12/01/17
A defendant that pleads not guilty is not saying that he did nighthawk12/01/17
That's what I thought too. Yes these are attorneys. One alwa esquire13812/01/17
Defense attorneys who won't let a client plead NG even if th isthisit12/01/17
I suspect that's why he was hired Sadly. esquire13812/01/17
The attorneys that OP is referring to should be immediately maverick12/08/17
Are you sure you're understanding what they told you? In thirdtierlaw12/08/17
What jurisdiction is this anyway? This sounds like a scene maverick12/08/17
If you can't handle an arraignment correctly, I don't know w trollfeeder12/08/17
I think that attorney is transposing his ethical violation t cocolawyer12/08/17
And you would be correct. In my jurisdiction judges often te smallyer12/09/17
I've had defendants who refused to enter a plea; the judge j toooldtocare12/09/17
The rule addresses that smallyer12/13/17
Yes, sometimes judges do that not to waste time. That's the lawlaw212/14/17
The only situation where I have seen an attorney advise a cl shitlawsf12/11/17
i've seen a defendant pleading guilty and his lawyer halting lawlaw212/14/17
esquire138 (Dec 1, 2017 - 12:06 pm)

I know attorneys who refuse to let their clients plead "not guilty" if they know they are guilty and force them to say "mute" (alleging its unethical otherwise)

I'm not saying to let the client lie, but if you just go "not guilty" and "5th amendment" the whole way to jury. Is that any ethical violation? I know people who sure think so.

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toooldtocare (Dec 1, 2017 - 12:16 pm)

I hope the people who think so aren't lawyers, because they're wrong. Generally, until changed at a later proceeding(see: Flynn, Michael) a defendant can either plead guilty(more on that in a minute), not guilty, or enter no plea and the judge enters a not guilty for him. Regarding pleading guilty, unless it's been approved by the judge in advance, I've never had a judge accept a guilty at arraignment. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least that DC has to assure the court s/he's reviewed discover, the plea is knowing and voluntary, etc.
So what's the ethical issue? The plea of NG is basically saying to the prosecutor: ok, prove it, and I'm standing by my Constitutional right to the presumption of innocence.

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nighthawk (Dec 1, 2017 - 12:23 pm)

A defendant that pleads not guilty is not saying that he did not commit a crime. He does not plead innocent because he is not claiming innocence; he is claiming that by rules of the court you cannot prove him guilty. If the police bust into someone's house and find dead bodies with fingerprints and videos are all over the place and the defendant pleads not guilty based on a 4th Amendment violation and moves to suppress the evidence. We know that the dude committed the crime yet the requisite evidence cannot be introduced into court.

This becomes a problem when a defendant wants to use the court to clear his name. He cannot plead innocent, only not guilty. Clearing your name as a criminal defendant is difficult.

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esquire138 (Dec 1, 2017 - 12:35 pm)

That's what I thought too. Yes these are attorneys. One always tells his clients during pleas to say no when asked if the plea was for a set amount of time since he tells them that the prosecutor can only recommend time to the judge but that's got to be bull too right? This guys a public defender. I think he is just screwing clients or an idiot.

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isthisit (Dec 1, 2017 - 12:55 pm)

Defense attorneys who won't let a client plead NG even if they know their client is guilty shouldn't work defense.

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esquire138 (Dec 1, 2017 - 1:22 pm)

I suspect that's why he was hired
Sadly.

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maverick (Dec 8, 2017 - 2:20 pm)

The attorneys that OP is referring to should be immediately disbarred. By making his clients say something else, he is forcing them to make a quasi-admission because of his own perverse understanding of criminal law. By engaging in this craziness, he is being unethical and completely incompetent. He is also violating the attorney-client privilege because the only way an attorney would know a client is guilty is if the client admitted guilt to the attorney, and even then, the client may NOT be guilty. So, by forcing his clients to say something else, he is saying to the Judge that his client made an admission to him. The attorney is violating confidentiality. Were these attorneys present for the crime? Are they effing GOD or something? Frankly OP, you should report these attorneys that you know to the bar because they are a danger to their clients and the profession. I don't know how these people passed the bar and CF review.

Entering a plea of non-guilty is not a lie, it is simply a representation that you exercising your civil rights to defend the case, engage in discovery, etc. The only time people plea at arraignment is when it is some very minor offense with little punishment and they want to get it over with. Otherwise, EVERYONE pleas not guilty at arraignment. I hate it when the media acts like it is some news story that someone has pled not guilty immediately after being charged.

These are the types of attorneys that need to be disbarred.

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thirdtierlaw (Dec 8, 2017 - 2:44 pm)

Are you sure you're understanding what they told you?

In my jurisdiction the attorney enters the plea of not guilty on behalf of the client.

I guess there is the pro forma not guilty if the client refuses to participate in the process at all. But I agree with everyone above that is malpractice.

Until I see the discovery I have no idea if someone is guilty or not. I will occasionally plead someone out at arraignment, but the case either needs to be a super low level misdemeanor with a fine or a situation where we can show the judge the State and I have been in discussions well before the arraignment.

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maverick (Dec 8, 2017 - 2:46 pm)

What jurisdiction is this anyway? This sounds like a scene from idiocracy. Where I'm from, If an attorney tried to pull this stunt, a Judge would go off. If this attorney is a PD, his boss needs to know because its time to fire this guy.

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trollfeeder (Dec 8, 2017 - 4:54 pm)

If you can't handle an arraignment correctly, I don't know what to tell ya.

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cocolawyer (Dec 8, 2017 - 5:50 pm)

I think that attorney is transposing his ethical violation that he cannot knowingly lie to the court, to his client. Plus a not guilty isn't saying that some of the facts, even the most material that the court will rule on, isn't untrue.

I have never done criminal law but if I did and a client came into my office and said "I murdered her, I pre-planned it, but they will never prove it," I would still have them enter a plea of not guilty.

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smallyer (Dec 9, 2017 - 3:37 am)

And you would be correct. In my jurisdiction judges often tell defendants at arraignment they are allowed to plead not guilty even if they are guilty.

Suborning perjury is another more complex topic, but refusing to plead your client not guilty because you in your infinite wisdom have deemed they are guilty is just plain wrong.

I've never heard of pleading "mute" or "no plea" and I've been doing criminal work a long time in several jurisdictions. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 11

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toooldtocare (Dec 9, 2017 - 5:22 pm)

I've had defendants who refused to enter a plea; the judge just enters a not guilty for them and sets the next date.

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smallyer (Dec 13, 2017 - 2:30 am)

The rule addresses that

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lawlaw2 (Dec 14, 2017 - 1:52 pm)

Yes, sometimes judges do that not to waste time. That's the rule anyway. Isn't it?

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shitlawsf (Dec 11, 2017 - 6:42 pm)

The only situation where I have seen an attorney advise a client to stand mute is when there is a jurisdictional issue and to enter a plea at all would concede that issue. Constitutionally, a defendant is innocent unless proved guilty. This is why he can truthfully plead not guilty at the arraignment. He is before a court of law, after all, not before God on Judgment Day.

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lawlaw2 (Dec 14, 2017 - 1:48 pm)

i've seen a defendant pleading guilty and his lawyer halting it and after a small chit chat with his cleint changed his pleafrom guilty to not guilty. Lawyer's work.:-)

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