Not everyone who is arrested and charged with a criminal offense professes their innocence. In fact, a significant percentage of defendants willingly admit their guilt and simply want to get the entire process over with as quickly as possible. Of course, this usually only applies to relatively minor crimes such as shoplifting, possession of marijuana, or driving under the influence for the first time. People are often under the impression that pleading guilty to a misdemeanor is not really a big deal and it is better to just do so than to drag out the prosecution. If you find yourself facing a criminal charge for which you plan to admit guilt you may be wondering if you really need to hire a criminal defense attorney given the fact you plan to plead guilty anyway. While the law does not require you to hire an attorney, there are several good reasons why you should even if you plan to plead guilty.
You Could Avoid a Conviction
The first, and most important, reason why you should always hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer when you have been accused of a crime is the simple fact that an experienced defense attorney might be able to get your charges dismissed or otherwise help you avoid a conviction. Remember the issue is not entirely whether or not you committed the offense, but whether or not the State of Nebraska can prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the police did something illegal during the investigation or someone mishandled evidence, for example, the State may not be able to meet its burden and you may be able to avoid a conviction. Wouldn’t you prefer that outcome to a conviction on your permanent record?
You Need to Understand Your Options
Another reason why hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney still makes sense is to ensure that you understand the implications of pleading guilty and that you are making the best decision for you and your future. Hiring an attorney doesn’t mean you have to fight the charges. Your attorney will not necessary discourage you from pleading guilty if that is what you really want to do and it is in your best interest. However, a criminal defense attorney is ethically bound to make sure that you:
- Understand the charges against you
- Understand the potential penalties you face if you plead guilty
- Understand the strengths and/or weaknesses of the State’s case against you
- Make the decision to plead guilty voluntarily and of your own free will
You Need to Understand the Implications of Pleading Guilty
A defendant who deals directly with a prosecuting attorney is at a disadvantage because the prosecutor does this every day and knows how to convince a defendant to take a plea agreement. Of course, the prosecutor is going to make it sound as though pleading guilty is not that big of a deal and won’t significantly harm your future. The prosecutor may focus on the fact that the sentence doesn’t include jail time and is very “light.” What the prosecutor won’t focus on are the non-judicial consequences of a conviction that may include things such as:
- Loss of a driver’s license
- Deportation or disqualification for change of status
- Disciplinary action for a professional license
- Lost employment opportunities
- Inability to carry a firearm
- Inability to vote
- Ineligibility for federal student loans
- Interference with visitation or custody of minor children
For many people, these non-judicial consequences are actually much worse than the judicial consequences that are part of the actual sentence handed down by the judge. Without the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you will likely not take these likely consequences into account when deciding to accept a guilty plea.
Negotiating a Better Plea
Finally, there is almost always room for negotiation when it comes to a guilty plea agreement. Taking the first thing offered to you by the prosecutor is never a good idea. An experienced criminal defense attorney will ensure that the plea agreement you accept includes the best possible terms and conditions for you.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.