It is generally a good idea to plead not guilty at arraignment. This is because pleading not guilty allows you to go through the discovery process, during which you and your lawyer can request evidence (i.e. Discovery) from the Government/State and prepare your defense. It also allows you to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution or to take your case to trial.
By pleading NOT GUILTY:
You maintain your innocence. You posture yourself for exoneration if you have a defense to the charges, such as an alibi, self-defense, conflicting eyewitness testimony, or other evidence that supports your innocence. You are holding the prosecution to their burden of proof-Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. A reasonable doubt can come from the evidence, a lack of evidence, a conflict in the evidence. You maintain the ability to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution. If you enter a plea of guilty, the sentence is left up to the Judge. It’s important to keep in mind that every case is different, and the specific defense strategy and arguments you make will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case. It’s always a good idea to consult with your lawyer before making any decisions about your defense. Below is the Florida Jury Instruction on Pleas of Not Guilty; Reasonable Doubt; and Burden of Proof. This instruction is read by the Judge to every jury before deliberations begin, and a copy of this instruction is sent with the jurors into the jury room to read and review during deliberations.
3.7 PLEA OF NOT GUILTY; REASONABLE DOUBT; AND BURDEN OF PROOF
The defendant has entered a plea of not guilty. This means you must presume or believe the defendant is innocent. The presumption stays with the defendant as to each material allegation in the [information] [indictment] through each stage of the trial unless it has been overcome by the evidence to the exclusion of and beyond a reasonable doubt. To overcome the defendant’s presumption of innocence, the State has the burden of proving the crime with which the defendant is charged was committed and the defendant is the person who committed the crime. The defendant is not required to present evidence or prove anything. Whenever the words “reasonable doubt” are used you must consider the following: It is recommended that you use this instruction to define reasonable doubt during voir dire. State v. Wilson, 686 So.2d 569 (Fla. 1996). A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt. Such a doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt. On the other hand, if, after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or, if, having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find the defendant not guilty because the doubt is reasonable. It is to the evidence introduced in this trial and to it alone that you are to look for that proof. A reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant may arise from the evidence, conflict in the evidence, or the lack of evidence. If you have a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant not guilty. If you have no reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty.