Is it bad to plead not guilty?

Updated: May 12




THERE'S TWO REALLY POPULAR questions in this area.

I’ll deal with them both, but this is the first one: is it bad to plead not guilty?

The answer is no.


Of course not. You should never plead guilty to something you didn’t do.

Just because you’ve been charged (or summoned) to court it doesn’t mean that you’re guilty of anything.

A summons or charge is just an allegation: the Gardai are alleging that you broke the law in some way.

But only a court can find you guilty.


In civil cases you have to prove your
case on the balance of probabilities,
i.e. 51%.
But in criminal trials it’s a far higher threshold.
And if the State don’t reach that
the case will be dismissed.



It’s the Guard’s word against mine?

Yes, but you’re looking at it the wrong way.


Mistakes happen in evidence. All the time.

Two people, say you and the Guard, can see the exact same thing and both remember the event differently.

This doesn’t mean that either one of you is telling lies. It just means that you both remember the same event differently.


One of you is wrong. That might be you, but it might be the Guard too.

If a person makes an honest mistake in their recollection of events that doesn’t mean that they are telling lies.

It just means that they’re mistaken.


But in order to convict you a Judge must be sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the State’s case has been proven.

If the Judge is unsure or has a doubt about the evidence, they must give the benefit of the doubt to you and acquit you.


This doesn’t mean that the Judge has decided that the Garda hasn’t told the truth.

Nothing of the sort.

It just means that the Judge isn’t satisfied that the State have proved their case to the correct standard.


Proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt (the standard required in criminal trials) is quite a burden for the State to overcome.

It’s a high threshold.

In civil cases you just have to prove your case on the balance of probabilities, i.e. 51%.

But in criminal trials it’s a far higher threshold.

And if the State don’t reach that threshold the case will be dismissed.


HERE'S THE SECOND REALLY POPULAR question: If I’m found guilty wont the Judge be angry at me?

Why would they?

Everybody who is charged or summoned before the court has a right to deny the charge and seek to defend themselves.

That is a right that every citizen in a democracy has.

You are also entitled to “put that State to proof”.

In other words, you are entitled to challenge the State to prove their case against you if they can.


And Judges understand this quite well.

In fact they often advise people who come to court without a solicitor to get legal advice.

Why?

Because the solicitor might advise them that they have a case worth fighting.


Besides, if you plead not guilty and are found guilty the Judge can hardly be angry at you, especially if you took that course on the advice of your solicitor.

44 views0 comments