Things to Consider Before Entering Into a Plea Bargain
If you’ve been arrested and charged with a Kansas criminal offense, you no doubt want your ordeal to be over as soon as possible with the lightest available penalties imposed. To that end, you may be tempted to enter into an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to your charges. By entering into a plea bargain, you think, you can avoid paying legal fees, minimize the risk of receiving harsher consequences, and move forward with your life.
Think again. Far from the “easy way out,” an ill-considered plea bargain can actually make things much harder for you and lead to bigger problems than the ones you are currently facing. Make no mistake, entering into a plea agreement means that you are telling the court – and the world – that you are guilty of a criminal offense. While you may be able to walk out of the courthouse after your guilty plea, you may not be able to walk away from the long-term impact of your decision.
Consequences of Pleading Guilty
Once you plead guilty to a criminal charge, you will have a criminal conviction on your record. Having a criminal record can significantly interfere with your future and become a considerable burden in several important respects.
A criminal conviction can follow you for the rest of your life. Prospective employers who conduct criminal background checks will see your conviction and may decide not to hire you based on your history, especially if the crime you pled guilty to involves fraud or untrustworthiness. Some Kansas criminal convictions may make you ineligible for certain kinds of employment or educational opportunities. A plea bargain can also have serious implications for your immigration status and put you at risk for deportation.
You May Have Defenses and Options You Haven’t Considered
Because a guilty plea will have several profound effects on your life, it is not a decision to take lightly. Nor is it one that you should make on your own. Representing yourself or negotiating with the prosecutor without an experienced defense attorney could be a huge mistake. It is critical that you consult with a criminal defense lawyer before you agree to anything with a prosecutor. Your lawyer can not only explain the many consequences of your plea, he or she can also provide you with other options you may not realize exist.
Importantly, your attorney may advise you that you have a strong defense to the charges against you. No matter how bleak you think your situation is, an experienced lawyer may see things differently. Your defense lawyer may be able to identify any number of mistakes made by police which could call into question the legitimacy of your arrest and, ultimately, the viability of the charges based on that arrest. He or she may be able to challenge the veracity of witness testimony or move to have critical evidence deemed inadmissible.
Instead of giving up, you can work with your lawyer to develop a defense strategy that may result in a more favorable outcome than simply entering a guilty plea at the start of your case. Your lawyer may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed altogether, sparing you from having a criminal record or spending time behind bars.
Contrary to what you are probably feeling right now, an arrest is not the end of the world. The right criminal defense lawyer can help you assert your rights and minimize the impact this ordeal will have on your life.
To meet with Johnson County criminal defense lawyer Jerry Merrill, schedule a consultation online or call 913-228-3843. Located in Overland Park, the firm represents clients throughout the Kansas City metro area.