Before we go into the pros and cons of pleading guilty, we should make one thing very clear. We aren't suggesting innocent people have to plead guilty, nor are we saying there's a set of rules that dictate what you should do. Every case is different, and your desired outcome or potential consequences impact what your personal actions should be. You should always consult an attorney before deciding what to do. That said, this is a rundown of the pros and cons of pleading guilty.
Disadvantages of Pleading Guilty
Sometimes, plead guilty is the best option, but there are several disadvantages to doing so, especially without consulting a lawyer first.
You might get a plea bargain otherwise — If you plead guilty immediately, the prosecutor will probably take you up on it. But in certain circumstances, your lawyer might recommend that you hold out for a plea bargain, in which case you'll be convicted of a less serious crime with a reduced sentence.
In some circumstances, it may even be preferable for a criminal defendant to proceed toward trial rather than plead guilty, as it's not uncommon for a prosecutor to later offer a reduced sentence at a later time.
Sentencing — A criminal defense attorney can often help ensure you serve less time than you would without one. But if you can't hire your own, there are other concerns.
If you plead guilty immediately, you may go through sentencing faster than not. But that's not always desirable. Some people need more time to get their personal affairs in order.
For example, not all convictions necessarily result in lengthy prison sentences. Even if your sentence ends in time served, many employment contracts will be terminated if you're convicted. You may need additional time to account for this even if you know you're going to lose out.
Social consequences — When you're convicted of a crime, certain friends, family members and acquaintances may attempt to distance themselves from you. These types of convictions can be used against you in civil proceedings or even be used as a basis to remove professional licenses. Any of these are good reasons to hire a criminal defense attorney.
Advantages of Pleading Guilty
All this said, there are times when pleading guilty might be advantageous. Trials takes time — The time it takes can be an advantage in some circumstances, but it can also be a burden. Depending on your crime, it may take months or even years, during which time some people may feel as though they're waiting to wait. Depending on the charges and the likely outcome, pleading guilty may save you a lot of headache and hassle.
Expense — Hiring a defense attorney can be pricy. While we don't recommend pleading guilty solely to avoid expense, people in certain circumstances might save money by pleading guilty.
Alternatives to Pleading Guilty
As previously discussed, a criminal defense lawyer can sometimes get you a reduced sentence. But that doesn't always mean pleading guilty. Depending on the circumstances, we may be able to negotiate alternative sentences, especially for first offenders, in which you enter a diversion program. Diversion programs typically involve counseling, treatment or vocational training of some sort, and often, the defendant may be required to pay for that treatment.
Only a qualified criminal defense lawyer can advise you about your options based on the circumstances of your specific case. If you've been charged with a crime in the Kissimmee area, call the Florida criminal defense attorneys at Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation or contact us online.