A Guilty Plea is Forever – Another Cautionary Tale
I know that it sounds like I harp on this subject a lot, but that’s because it’s really, really important.
PLEASE, for the love of all that you hold dear, DO NOT PLEAD GUILTY TO AN OFFENSE THAT YOU DID NOT COMMIT. A guilty plea is FOREVER. You don’t get take-backs.
I spoke in January with a gentleman who was an active duty soldier in 2006, when he was involved in an unfortunate incident between his then-girlfriend and his then-ex-girlfriend. The ex-girlfriend did not accept that the relationship was over, and contacted the police, alleging that the soldier was holding her at knifepoint and refusing to let her leave the house.
This soldier went with a public defender and was talked into signing a guilty plea to a crime that he didn’t commit, all so that he could be released from the Marion County Jail. He was convinced to admit guilt despite the fact that:
- he had a witness to support his defense (albeit a biased witness),
- there were inconsistencies with the alleged victim’s story (she had alleged that the defendant had ripped a phone out of the wall while she was calling 911, despite the fact that the phone records and physical evidence didn’t support that),
- he had no prior convictions, making a prison sentence far less likely,
- he didn’t do it.
This is lazy representation. Worse, this is lazy decision-making on the part of the defendant. Your freedom is a commodity, and is worth exactly what you feel like investing in it. As a result of this decision to plead guilty, this man’s military career was ended, his future hope for becoming a police officer were ended, and he now has a permanent felony on his record that will NEVER go away, and will prevent him from certain federal rights and benefits for the rest of his life.
When you are accused of a crime, your cable bill doesn’t matter. Eating out doesn’t matter. Getting name-brand foods doesn’t matter. Getting the newest toy/electronic/clothes doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is making sure that you are doing everything in your power to find the best attorney possible to make sure that your attorney has the tools to properly represent you in your case.
Being charged with a criminal offense may result in the loss of your liberty, and you should make a rational decision about who to hire, rather than going with the cheapest option. “You get what you pay for” is very important to remember when talking about your freedom. Can you put a dollar value on a year of your life? Five years? 30?
Even if fines are all that you may be facing, a criminal conviction and record can have long-term consequences on multiple aspects of your life – your ability to get a job, obtain student loans, or even remain in the country, just to name a few. By spending some money on a good defense attorney, these costly outcomes, and perhaps even the fines themselves, may be reduced or avoided.
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