When a defendant makes their initial appearance in federal court, the accused enters a not guilty plea. From this point moving forward, a denial has been lodged and a trial date is set. The parties move into the discovery and litigation phase of the case. At the same time, the parties may be in the midst of plea agreement negotiations.
If the parties are able to reach a plea agreement, then the case will be calendared for a “change of plea” hearing. Or, the case may be calendared for a change of plea hearing if the defendant elects to plead open to the court without an agreement with the prosecution.
At a change of plea hearing, the defendant, defendant's attorney, and the prosecutor will appear before the judge. The judge will inquire directly to the defendant about whether the defendants desires to change their plea from not guilty to guilty.
Prior to the court questioning the defendant, the clerk will take the defendants oath to tell the truth. It is obstruction of justice if the defendant provides untruthful answers at their change of plea hearing.
The court must question the defendant to determine if the defendant knowingly and voluntarily waives his or her constitutional rights. If the court is satisfied with the waivers, then the case will be referred the U.S. Probation Department for the preparation of a presentence report and a sentencing hearing date will be scheduled.
If you have been charged with a federal offense, and you are either seeking legal representation or a second opinion, then contact us today. Contact our office to schedule a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and get your questions answered by an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. Our office stands ready to intervene at all stages of the criminal process.