An individual charged with a criminal offence should discuss all aspects of the case with an experienced criminal lawyer in order to make an informed decision about whether to plead guilty or not guilty. If an accused individual decides to plead not guilty, the case will proceed to a trial. The trial date could be in a couple of months, or it could be as long as a year later. There are many factors that determine when trials will be held, including Court availability, witness availability, the amount of time the trial will take, and counsel scheduling.
If an accused individual decides to plead guilty, he or she will be sentenced by the Court at a sentencing hearing. The scheduling of a sentencing hearing is typically sooner than a trial because witnesses are usually not required. The amount of time needed to conduct a sentencing hearing is usually less than the time needed for a trial for the same case. A sentencing hearing can, therefore, take place sooner than if the case proceeds to trial.
It is important to consult with a lawyer in order to be aware of the full ramifications of pleading guilty or not guilty to any criminal charges. Before deciding how to plead, an accused individual needs to understand all of the implications of pleading guilty or not guilty. Criminal lawyers also assist their clients with plea negotiations.