I Just Want to Plead Guilty- Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
By: Dave Mueller, Criminal Defense Attorney
A little known fact of the criminal justice system is that over 90 percent of people charged with a criminal offense make the choice to plead guilty at some stage in the proceeding. Sometimes, people who make mistakes just want to take responsibility and move on. If you find yourself in that position, it may seem like the easy thing to do is simply plead guilty and try to put it all behind you. Before making that decision, it is essential that you speak with an experienced criminal attorney. With very few exceptions, a guilty plea today will follow you as a conviction for the rest of your life. Only an experienced criminal attorney can prevent you from making a mistake that you can’t erase. Here are some things that your attorney will know and apply to your case:
Not all Sentences are Equal
If you and your attorney make the decision that pleading guilty is the right option in your case, the next step will likely be for your attorney to try to negotiate a “plea agreement” with the state. A plea agreement is basically a bargain between you and the state, setting in stone what the penalties will be if you plead guilty. This is where the experience of a criminal attorney is essential. Your attorney will apply years of experience to: 1) thoroughly review the case and the strength of the evidence against you; 2) communicate with the prosecution to ensure that a fair offer is made; 3) negotiate with the prosecution; and 4) make sure that any agreement you enter into is fair and just. Your attorney will also advise you on the risks and potential outcomes if you choose not to accept a plea agreement. Every case is different, and negotiating with the state by yourself is like going to a fine art auction with no art experience. Your criminal attorney is like a master appraiser and negotiator when it comes to criminal cases. Taking responsibility doesn’t always mean just taking what you’re given, and you need an experienced attorney by your side.
Not all Charges are Equal
Even assuming that you want to admit to everything, only an experienced attorney can advise you on how the law applies to the unique facts of your case. A given set of facts may give rise to a number of different charges, and even minor distinctions could mean the difference between: 1) a felony or a misdemeanor; 2) jail time or probation; 3) a mere prior record or lifetime registration as a sex offender; and much, much more. In Pennsylvania for example, the difference in possible sentences between a burglary and a criminal trespass could mean as much as 5 additional years in prison. The difference in possible sentences between a simple assault and an aggravated assault could mean as much as 18 additional years in prison. The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor could affect every job application that you ever fill out. Your attorney will not only review your case to make sure the charges are appropriate, but may also negotiate for lesser charges that significantly affect the impact on your life. All charges are not the same, and only an experienced criminal attorney will know the difference.
Other Issues- Proof, Suppression, and Your Rights
When it comes to something as serious as a criminal charge, only a lawyer can help you answer the most important question of all: can the state prove what you’re charged with. A lawyer reviewing your case may identify issues that you did not even know existed. Perhaps the police collected evidence unlawfully and you can file a motion to suppress evidence. Perhaps a procedural error was made and you can file a motion to dismiss. Perhaps the evidence that you think is most damning against you is not even admissible in court. The possibilities are limitless, but one fact remains constant: you are innocent under the law until the state proves you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Don’t make the mistake of pleading guilty without a thorough review by an experienced criminal defense attorney.
No Matter What the Charge- Contact Use Before Giving Up Your Rights!
When you decide to plead guilty, you permanently give up a range of rights, and there is very little you can do to change that after the fact. Before making one of the most important decisions of your life, contact us and talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney.