Obviously, when a defendant pleads guilty in a criminal case, they understand they are going to be waiving certain rights, even some constitutional protections/rights. For example, most people know or assume that when they plead guilty to a criminal offense, they waive the right to remain silent. Clearly, in order to admit guilt in open court, one must waive their right to remain silent because they have to admit to what they did, audibly. That demands that a defendant must speak in open court that they understand their rights, plead guilty and admit to the facts, and wish to move forward with the plea. Clearly, that can’t be done by remaining silent. There are some states that allow for nolo contendre pleas whereby you can remain silent but accept responsibility for the penalty; however, Indiana does not allow that on criminal matters and accompanying guilty pleas, rather that is only available on civil/traffic ticket related matters.
With all of that said, there are other waivers that must also be raised orally by all judges when you plead guilty. In fact, the Supreme Court has held that a guilty plea (no matter the level — misdemeanor to a major felony) is invalid and subject to PCR (post-conviction relief) if certain constitutional waivers are not discussed openly by the judge, individually, and the defendant must orally state they understand each one, specifically. So, what are they?
Rights Defendants Must Orally State They Understand:
- You have the right to be represented by an attorney, and if you cannot afford one, one can be appointed for you at no expense to you at any stage of the proceedings;
- You have the right to a public and speedy trial by jury
***it is important to note that you must request a jury on misdemeanors within 10 days of the first bench trial setting***
- That at that trial, you have the right to:
- Subpoena witnesses at no expense to you, and compel those witnesses to appear in court
- Confront and cross-examine witnesses that are brought to court to testify
- Require the State to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to all elements of the offense
- Remain silent and not be compelled to testify against yourself
- You have the right to appeal a conviction and/or any decision made by a judge at or after trial
Again, the judge must read each and every one of these. The defendant must state orally that they understand each of them. If that is not done, the plea can be undone down the road!!
Other Advisements and Waivers
There are other advisements and waivers that are typically listed on a written plea, but no specific requirements that they are individually covered separately and orally by the judge at the guilty plea hearing. Those include, but are not limited to: the charge/offense, the penalty range, license suspension possibilities/BMV related issues, the ramifications of prior convictions on potential penalty ranges, the ramifications this conviction will have on future offenses (i.e. habitual offender enhancements, etc.), concurrent vs. consecutive sentencing, statutory mitigators or aggravators, an advisement that the court is not a party to the agreement and can only accept or reject the plea but cannot alter the terms, that the plea is freely and voluntarily given — no threats, promises, coercion and/or force have been used to force the defendant to plead guilty, that notification of the conviction will be sent to other public agencies (i.e BMV/FBI, etc.), that this will be part of the defendants public record under Administrative Rule 9, you admit to the facts of the offense and have reviewed the evidence with your counsel, that you had all of your questions answered, that you are satisfied with counsel, that you read/write the English language or had the plea translated for you, civil consequences including immigration consequences, and appellate rights.
Clearly, there is a lot to what goes into a guilty plea and waiving your constitutional rights is nothing to take lightly. Also, nothing replaces the advice of a good lawyer. Never read a blog or article and assume you understand what you are waiving when pleading guilty. An experienced Indianapolis Criminal Lawyer can talk you through exactly what you are doing by pleading guilty and what you are giving up.