Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney if I Plan to Plead Guilty?
Many people who have been charged with crimes in Florida assume there’s no point in hiring a criminal defense lawyer if they’re planning to enter a guilty plea. That’s usually a mistake. Here are two key reasons you should seriously consider hiring a Jacksonville defense attorney even if you are planning to plead guilty to a crime.
1. You Might Not Want to Plead Guilty
Pleading guilty may seem like the best option for you right now. Maybe it is, but then again maybe it’s not. For instance, what if you don’t have all the information or you don’t understand what each piece of evidence actually means. In such situations it might seem like pleading guilty is your only option, when in fact it’s not. Additionally attorneys are trained to be able to explain our options and how the presence or absence of various pieces of evidence might impact your case. So if you or a loved one have been charged with a criminal offense, it’s always a good idea to get the advice of a criminal defense attorney. .
There May Be Weaknesses in Your Case You Don’t Know About
Now some people charged with crimes may assume they are going to be convicted and as a result they might as well save time and money by pleading guilty. But doing so could result in a defendant missing significant weaknesses that may be present in your case. After all, an experienced criminal lawyer has the training to identify weaknesses in the case and to look for any potential basis for the suppression of evidence.
If the prosecution has offered you what seems like a great plea deal, think about why. It’s possible that the deal you’re being offered is standard for your type of charge, or that the prosecutor is cutting you a break because you have no prior criminal history. But, there’s another possibility. The prosecutor may know there’s a problem with the case and be offering a good deal so you’ll plead guilty without talking to an attorney who might recognize the weaknesses and encourage you to fight the charges.
There May Be Consequences You Don’t Know About
You may also not be aware of indirect consequences of a guilty plea. Some criminal convictions can have a serious impact on other areas of your life. For instance convictions for drug charges, even misdemeanor possession of cannabis will result in a driver’s license suspension. Likewise if not a US Citizen a plea to a criminal charge could result in deportation from the US or prevent reentry into the US. But these are just some of the collateral consequences of certain criminal cases. Others can include increased insurance costs, making you vulnerable to civil forfeiture of property, making you ineligible for certain employment, or providing a basis for the denial of certain housing accommodations. That said, you don’t want to find out about this type of consequence after you’ve entered a guilty plea. So reach out to your local criminal defense attorney today.
2. You May Not Be Getting the Best Deal Possible
Another reason you might want to consult with a criminal defense attorney prior to entering a plea of guilty is to ensure that you’re actually getting a decent sentence. Said differently, most people lack the perspective needed to evaluate the quality of any proposed plea deal. Without this perspective or experience all uncounseled defendant’s can do is hope that they get a good plea deal. Unfortunately, hoping for a good plea deal is generally not an effective strategy. Thankfully experienced criminal defense attorneys can help. These attorneys have the knowledge training, and perspective to provide a genuine assessment of the quality of any proposed plea deal.
Don’t Roll the Dice with Your Future
If you plead guilty without an agreed upon deal then it will be up to the presiding judge to determine an appropriate sentence at the conclusion of a sentencing hearing. In such scenarios there are a number of factors that can impact the ultimate sentence a criminal defendant receives including who the judge happens to be, whether a defendant has a guideline score under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, whether there is any basis to depart below the guideline score, and how prepared a defendant is to argue and present mitigation at a sentencing hearing. Thankfully a local criminal defense attorney can help you address each of those factors. More importantly after considering those factors an attorney will be able to explain to you whether or not pleading guilty without a deal is even wise.
You May Not Be Aware of All of Your Options
An agreement with the prosecution doesn’t necessarily mean pleading guilty to the charges against you. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to persuade the prosecutor to:
- Dismiss the charges pending against you.
- Divert your case into diversion, where upon the completion of conditions the case would be dropped.
- Dismiss some charges and allow you to plead guilty to just one count.
- Enter into a plea agreement for a lesser charge that carries a lighter sentence and won’t look as serious on your criminal history.
- Agree to a sentence that doesn’t include jail time or minimizes other consequences.
In some cases, entering into an agreement may not even result in a criminal conviction. For example, Florida judges have the option of withholding adjudication in certain types of criminal cases. That means that even though the defendant pleads guilty, the defendant is not convicted of the offense. In such instances a defendant is instead placed on probation.
If probation is successfully completed, no conviction is entered. Depending on the individual and the charges, withholding adjudication can make a big difference. For example, if adjudication has been withheld, you can honestly answer “no” when an employer asks whether you’ve been convicted of a crime. Similarly, you may avoid consequences like ineligibility for certain housing or licensing.
Your criminal defense attorney can explain in more detail how adjudication withheld differs from a plea agreement with a conviction–even if the terms of your probation are exactly the same.
Talk to an Experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer
The decision you’re making right now could impact the rest of your life.
The best defense against an unnecessary conviction or a bad plea deal is a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Attorney Matthew Lufrano knows how important accurate information is. That’s why he offers free consultations to people facing Florida criminal charges. Call 904-513-3905 to schedule yours now.