When you go before the court for a plea hearing, which occurs after your arrest, you will enter your plea. You also should get the chance to consult with an attorney prior to making your plea.
You may wonder who will choose which plea you give to the court. According to NPR, the right to enter your plea belongs to you alone.
The issue that often comes up with pleas is that when you have an attorney, the attorney may offer you legal advice as to what plea to enter. You should note that this is only advice. Although, some people may not understand this and assume they must enter the plea the attorney recommends.
You have the right to enter your own plea because the law says so. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld this right in various rulings. One to note is McCoy v. Louisiana where the defendant’s lawyer told the jury in the case that he was guilty to help him avoid the death penalty even though the defendant had not approved that strategy. The defendant upheld his innocence in the case.
The violation of the defendant’s right to enter his own plea applied here. The Court ruled the lawyer was in the wrong.
Specifically, the Court says that you have the right to consult with an attorney, but gives the attorney no right to make decisions in your case for you. So, while your attorney may advise you to make a certain plea, you ultimately must make the choice on your own and provide it to the court.