Things to Consider Before Taking a Plea Agreement
Can I have my conviction expunged or sealed later?
If you think you can take the plea deal and have your record sealed, not so fast. Not all convictions are eligible to be sealed, and the statutes change often. Ask your attorney about expungement BEFORE you plead to anything. Taking back a guilty plea after you enter it is nearly impossible. Therefore, you must consider this before a guilty plea. Make sure your attorney knows if expungement is important to you. If it is, make sure the plea results in a conviction that is eligible to be sealed.
What happens if I go to trial?
Make a list of your priorities. Thinking about the consequences of criminal convictions, it is important to consider what matters most to you and how it will affect your life long-term. For some people, it is most important that they don’t have a felony record because they work in healthcare or some other career that would bar them from getting a job. Others may only care about keeping their gun rights because they like to hunt. Perhaps what is most important to you is avoiding jail time because you are the sole provider for a child. Everyone’s situation is different and each criminal conviction could have different consequences. Write it down on paper and think about what could happen if you go to trial and compare it to what the prosecutor is offering. Consider which option is closest to your goals, and remember you get the ultimate decision on taking the deal or going to trial. Discuss your priorities with your attorney so they can try to help align the outcome with your priorities when it comes time to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor.
How will a conviction affect my job and housing?
Having a criminal conviction can make getting a job, and even renting, harder. A felony conviction makes getting a job harder than a misdemeanor conviction, but depending on your career, either can be detrimental. You may want to seek help from an employment rights attorney before deciding to take a plea agreement. Here are a couple of helpful links on employment with a criminal conviction and HUD housing laws. Landlords with HUD housing cannot have a blanket policy that discriminates against all people with criminal convictions and must consider the type and severity of the criminal conviction.
What is my attorney saying about the strength of my case?
Often clients will pinpoint a legally insignificant fact and think they can win their case solely on that fact. If your attorney tells you that it is minor and will not be enough for a not guilty verdict, you should probably listen to them. For example, if the prosecutor states that your car is red instead of maroon, this is unlikely to weaken their case.
Can I be deported for a criminal conviction?
If you are not a United States citizen, criminal convictions may result in deportation. You should contact an immigration attorney about your situation right away. Here is a link to information about the immigration consequences of criminal activity.
Can I get a better plea deal?
Know the maximum penalties that the state can impose on you if you are convicted of all charges. If their offer isn’t much better than the maximum penalties available to them, perhaps it’s worth the risk of trial.
Are you charged with a felony, and are they offering a misdemeanor? Think about the differences between a felony conviction on your record versus a misdemeanor conviction. If you are charged with a felony and choose to take it to trial, consider the risks and consequences of a felony conviction. The option for a misdemeanor no longer exists after the trial.
THIS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND NOT INTENDED TO BE LEGAL ADVICE. PLEASE CONTACT A LICENCED ATTORNEY IN YOUR STATE FOR LEGAL ADVICE.