What is a Plea Hearing


What does the possibility of going on trial for your crimes mean? What is a plea hearing, How does a Plea Hearing work, and what is Sentencing?

You and your attorney have discussed trial, plea hearings, sentencing, and other topics, but you are still unsure which is best for you.

Please keep reading to understand how plea hearing work and what to anticipate from them.

What is Plea Hearing?

In a judicial session called a plea hearing, the accused (defendant) can speak out against the accusations leveled against them. 

The defendant enters a statement (plea), either guilty or not guilty, expressing their guilt or innocence at the plea hearing.

In a criminal case, what exactly is a plea hearing?

The American legal system states that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

The execution must present enough substantiation that is consequently satisfying that a reasonable person could not doubt the defendant’s guilt.  

However, the defendant is entitled to dismissal, and they will be set up if the execution fails to establish its case beyond a reasonable level of mistrust.

Still, if the execution presents sufficient substantiation during a pretrial, the defendant can enter a shamefaced prayer rather than going to trial.

How Does Plea Hearing Work?

The defendant will appear with their defense counsel before the judge at a plea hearing. The judge will next outline the defendant’s criminal charges and the potential punishments and consequences of the offense. However, during the court procedures, they will also explain the defendant’s three options: plead guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere to the allegations. The following are the defendant’s trial rights:

  • The right to stand trial before a jury;
  • The privilege to remain innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt;
  • The right to call witnesses both for and against the defendant at trial;
  • The privilege to silence during a test;
  • The right to testify in court if the defendant so desires.

These trial privileges do not apply if the defendant pleads not guilty or no contest.

 Before the plea hearing, the defendant must usually sign an “Advice of Rights” paper. 

 This indicates they will waive their rights by pleading guilty or no contest. At the plea hearing, the court will assess the defendant’s comprehension. 

To assure comprehension, some defense attorneys will have their clients sign a fresh copy of the Advice of Rights form before the plea hearing, although this is unnecessary.

How long does it take between a guilty plea and sentencing?

The period between a guilty plea and a sentence can differ based on the case’s circumstances and complexity, the court’s schedule, and the jurisdiction.

 Depending on the circumstances, the offender may be sentenced immediately after pleading guilty in some situations or after a few weeks or even months.

State laws may, however, stipulate that the offender must be sentenced within a predetermined number of days or weeks following pleading guilty. On how plea hearing work, here are a few instances of state sentencing timelines:

  • The offender must be sentenced within 35 days of filing a guilty plea in New York.
  • A guilty plea in Utah must be followed by a sentence 45 days later.
  • In Minnesota, the court must schedule a sentencing hearing three days after a guilty plea.
  • In Michigan, the offender must receive a penalty within 30 days of submitting a guilty plea.

However, in other cases, the court may need extra time to gather the required information to determine the proper penalty, such as a pre-sentence investigation report or victim impact statements.

What Is Sentencing?

The court chooses the penalty for the guilty person at the sentencing, which may include a monetary fine, prison time, or a combination of the two.

 How does plea hearing work; the judge’s side of a plea hearing:

  • Examining a probation officer’s pre-sentence report. The report includes the defendant’s background, criminal history, and other pertinent facts for sentencing.
  • I am considering the prosecutor’s and defense attorney’s arguments.
  • I am evaluating sentencing criteria to determine the minimum jail or prison sentence and options, such as probation or a suspended sentence.

However, if a sentencing agreement or plea bargain is in place, the court may waive the sentencing hearing and skip the pre-sentence report.

Is a Plea Hearing the Same as a Plea Bargain?

A plea hearing and a plea bargain are not identical, even though they may appear identical. However, a plea bargain may take place at a plea hearing.

A plea hearing, which takes place before a judge with all parties present, is the final stage before the trial. 

It is the venue for any last-ditch efforts to conclude the matter without the necessity of a costly and frequently time-consuming trial. If the matter goes to trial, the defendant will enter a plea of “guilty” or “no contest.”

A plea bargain is a negotiation between the prosecution and the defense attorney. It is the process of discussing charges and possible sentences based on the strength of the case.

 The prosecution offers the defendant the option of pleading guilty to a charge of lesser magnitude or the original offense with a sentence less than the maximum. 

Some believe that plea bargaining should not be possible because it prevents justice from running its purportedly unbiased course. Despite this, statistics show that over 90% of cases end in a plea bargain.

Examining Plea Options

The legal system requires the defendant to select how they will react to the allegations leveled against them. 

A plea is a type of answer like this. The basic plea alternatives are guilty, not guilty, and no contest. Each plea option has its own set of ramifications and potential outcomes.


When an accused person makes a plea bargain in court, he or she acknowledges committing a crime. 

A plea of guilty is frequently submitted as part of a plea deal, in which the criminal admits guilt in return for a reduced sentence or other leniencies. 

In rare instances, a defendant may make a voluntary guilty plea without reaching an agreement with the prosecution.

When defendants enter a guilty plea, they admit the allegations against them and forgo their right to a trial. The plea frequently expedites the resolution of legal issues and case facts.

Not guilty

When a person files a not guilty plea in court, they admit they did not commit the crime. If the defendant enters a not-guilty plea, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

In certain circumstances, pleading not guilty does not mean the defendant admits to doing the crime. They may enter the plea to exercise their right to a trial or because they believe the prosecution will fail to demonstrate their case.

No contest

Nolo contendere, or “I do not desire to contend,” is a no-contest plea. It is distinct from a guilty plea in that the offender does not acknowledge guilt but instead accepts the sentence. 

Defendants frequently utilize this plea when facing civil action due to the criminal accusation. 

They have a greater chance of defending themselves in a civil action if they do not acknowledge guilt.

A no-contest plea can be part of a plea deal like a guilty plea. In exchange for the defendant’s plea, the prosecution may agree to lessen the charges or suggest a reduced sentence.

Following the Plea Hearing

Several things can happen following a plea hearing, depending on the circumstances and the conclusion of the plea.

  • If the defendant pleads not guilty to a misdemeanor or felony charge, the case will move to pretrial hearings, which may include petitions to dismiss, motions to suppress evidence or other procedural procedures.
  • If the defendant enters a not-guilty plea to either a misdemeanor or felony charge, the case will move on to pretrial hearings, where requests to dismiss, motions to suppress evidence or other procedural issues may be raised.
  • If the defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest and the court accepts the plea, the matter will go on to sentencing. A court may sentence the offender immediately or later, depending on the conditions of the plea deal.
  • A court may sentence the offender right away or at a later time, depending on the terms of the plea bargain.
  •  The defendant enters a guilty or no contest plea in a misdemeanor case, but if the judge rejects the plea, the matter may go to trial.


Although a plea hearing may look simple, it is an important decision that can have serious consequences for the offender. 

A plea hearing is important to understand because it allows the accused to rebut the allegations presented against them. 

Even though the court will ensure that defendants understand the plea hearing procedure, they must consult with their counsel before entering a plea.

Also, read:

Is Burglary A Felony? Burglary Charges and Defences

What is a misdemeanor offense in Utah?

FELONY PROBATION: Rules and Violation Penalties


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