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A plea of not guilty is the only plea that allows for the judge to find you not guilty, so if you do not wish to be found guilty of the offense charged, offering a guilty plea more often than not, will have you found guilty and a conviction of something.
When you hire an attorney, in most counties they have the ability to negotiate the charge with the prosecuting attorney, and have the opportunity to amend the charge before it goes in front of the judge. Local attorneys are also experienced in the best ways to handle a plea in front of judges and how to negotiate with prosecutors to possibly amend your charge to something of a lesser degree.
Without an attorney, it is up to you to speak up for yourself in front of the judge and plead your case.