A guilty plea means that you accept responsibility for the offence that you have pleaded to. If you enter a guilty plea you will be sentenced by a judge.
Never plead guilty without reviewing the disclosure, getting legal advice and knowing what the Crown’s sentencing position is first. Never plead guilty just because the process seems like a hassle and you want to get it over with. There are serious consequences when you are convicted of a crime.
If you plead “not guilty”, you can change your plea at any time up until a judge’s decision at trial. However, once you plead guilty it may be difficult to change your plea. You can ask to withdraw your guilty plea if you have not yet been sentenced, but the judge may refuse your request. Do not make the decision lightly.
See Legal Help to learn what legal counsel can do for you.
If you decide to plead guilty your case will be scheduled for sentencing. A sentencing judge may take into consideration an early guilty plea as a mitigating factor (a potential reason to give a lighter sentence) at sentencing, but they may not. If the judge sees your guilty plea as you taking responsibility, sparing the victims the pain of going through a lengthy court process, and sparing the justice system the expense of a full trial, they may take it into consideration when they decide on a sentence.
See Sentencing for more information.
Pleading Not Guilty
If you plead “not guilty” your matter will be arraigned and set for trial.
You will usually enter your plea at the Arraignment Hearing.
In some cases, the police or Crown Counsel may refer someone suspected or accused of a crime to alternative measures, diversion, or restorative justice. These programs allow the accused to take responsibility and make amends to the community without getting a criminal record. This is usually a program for people with no criminal record, charged with minor offences, and who are willing to take responsibility. It often involves making an apology or doing community service to make up for the harm caused by the offence. You can also ask Crown Counsel to consider alternative measures.
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