Some criminal defendants decide to fight allegations at trial, while others decide to plead guilty to their charges. While pleading guilty makes sense for some defendants – such as when an attorney secures a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor – it is not the right decision for everyone. You should always discuss the possibility of a guilty plea with an experienced criminal defense lawyer before you ever plead guilty. The following are some important considerations when making this decision.
It is never a wise idea to plead guilty without first consulting with a criminal defense attorney. Prosecutors will not negotiate with defendants directly, so unrepresented defendants often receive much harsher sentences than they would if they had an attorney negotiating on their behalf.
Once you plead guilty, there are only very limited circumstances under which you can withdraw the plea. You will not have the right to simply change your mind and go to trial if you face unexpected consequences of your guilty plea, such as immigration consequences. Instead, you must meet certain legal standards for the court to allow you to withdraw the plea. Always make sure you understand all of the possible implications of a guilty plea before you enter one.
Pleading guilty to a crime constitutes a criminal conviction, and your guilty plea and sentence will be accessible to anyone who performs a background check as part of your permanent criminal record. This can affect your employment, housing, professional license, and much more.
In many cases, presenting the right defenses can result in a complete dismissal of your case or an acquittal at trial. If you plead guilty, you do not have the option to seek a dismissal or acquittal. A skilled lawyer should examine all possible defenses, including suppressing illegal evidence, alibi, self-defense, and more before you ever decide to plead guilty. Often, a guilty plea waives your right to appeal your case, so you will not be able to raise the issue of constitutional violations or wrongful charges down the line.
When a defense attorney reaches a plea deal with a prosecutor, it often involves a reduced sentence. However, the prosecutor only has the power to recommend a reduced sentence, as the judge has the ultimate discretion to determine your sentence. If there is a chance the judge will order a much harsher sentence than the plea agreement involves, it might not be worth it to agree to the plea deal.
Whether or not to plead guilty is an important decision with many possible consequences, and you should be sure you fully understand the implications of a guilty plea. The VanNoy Firm works closely with each client to review all possible defense options. Contact us to discuss your case with a Dayton criminal defense attorney.
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