The situation works in different ways. If you are arrested and incarcerated and unable to bond yourself out, the court has an easier task deciding that you can avail the services of an in house lawyer for free. But if you are freed after posting bail, the court can take the view that you have to reimburse the court for appointing a lawyer. Basically, what this means is that you can’t take it for granted that a court appointed lawyer will be arguing your case for free, and since you have chosen to forego appointing your own lawyer you could just as well end up paying the court for appointing a lawyer they choose to act on your behalf. So choosing a lawyer is an option that has to be considered carefully after weighing the benefits of a court appointed vis-à-vis the self-appointed lawyer.
At this point it will be open to the defendant to agree to the plea offer and sign the “Written Plea Admonishment Document” and submit oneself to the sentencing, or agree with the plea but put in a plea to postpone sentencing. If the circumstances show that the case is unindicted and you have agreed to the plea offer but the sentencing is incomplete in the hearing, you will be required to execute the “Waiver of Indictment and Acceptance of Plea Agreement Offer.” Alternatively, if for valid reasons and by heeding defense counsel arguments you decide not to go ahead with the plea bargain, your case will be scheduled for pre-trial settings before the actual trial and evidence examination.
Last opportunity for defendant’s guilty plea – the status conference
Basically, this is the stage where the defense and the prosecution grapple with discussions and conduct negotiations to conclude a plea bargain offer. The defendant, if he so wishes, can plead guilty with or without a plea bargain offer during the status conference, but he will not be allowed another shot at a negotiated plea once the status conference is over.
If the defendant refuses to plead guilty then a “Status and Trial Management” form will be executed and submitted along with some more paperwork before the trial officially commences.
To the unlettered observer what is immediately visible and which garners maximum publicity or notoriety is the trial, but as can be seen there are many steps to be gone through before ever reaching the trial stage. Each setting or stage is an opportunity for the defense and prosecution to hammer out a plea bargain so that the defendant can spare himself a trial and opt out with a lighter sentence. But when the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the defendant or where there is clear cut breach of constitutional rights, judges have dismissed charges even before they reached the trial stage.