The vast majority of criminal cases in Illinois never make it to trial. Instead, most of these cases end in a plea deal where the defendant accepts guilt for a charge in exchange for a reduced sentence. But while a plea deal can be beneficial for many criminal defendants and spare them the worst possible penalties for their alleged offense, you should not automatically take the first deal prosecutors offer. There are costs involved in every plea deal, and it is essential to understand what you are agreeing to before you accept the deal.
An attorney may be able to help you get a better deal or have the charges against you dropped, but they cannot do much if you have already agreed to a deal before hiring them. Keep reading to learn more about the five things to consider before taking a plea deal.
Think About How a Jail or Prison Sentence Will Affect Your Life
Spending a few months or more incarcerated is an extremely difficult and traumatic experience. Jails and prisons can be dangerous, and you will have to live without most of the comforts and privileges you are currently used to. You likely will have little contact with family or friends while you are incarcerated.
You also need to consider how being incarcerated will affect your family and friends. You could lose your job, you may need to find alternate childcare arrangements for your young children, and you will need to have someone else pay your bills and look after your home. That is a lot to ask of your friends and family. The reduced sentence from a plea deal may seem better than the potential penalties if you are found guilty at trial, but you still need to carefully weigh the consequences of accepting a jail sentence.
Remember That You Will Have a Criminal Record
Pleading guilty to a crime means that the crime will be added to your permanent record (Rap Sheet) and the stigma of a criminal record may make your life harder in a number of ways. For one, many people with criminal records have a difficult job finding a job once they have completed their sentence. Having a criminal record can also make it difficult for you to find housing, obtain a loan, and take part in the political process (people with criminal records may not be able to vote or run for office). Not all criminal records are necessarily permanent though. Some sentences such as supervision or deferred prosecution may be later eligible for expungement.
If you plead guilty to a sex offense, you may also have to register as a sex offender. Being labeled a sex offender carries intense social stigma and places certain limits on where you can be and what you can do, especially in areas where children are present.
You May Not Be Able to Appeal a Guilty Plea
Being found guilty at trial is disheartening and can lead to more severe penalties for your offense. However, going to trial also means that you can preserve your right to appeal your case. A successful appeal could lead to your original sentence being tossed out and the criminal charges being removed from your record. But if you plead guilty to a crime, you generally lose your right to appeal your case for all practical purposes. This is extremely important to remember before accepting any plea deal.
A Guilty Plea Can Have Immigration Consequences
Broadly speaking, immigrants with certain criminal records are not allowed to legally remain in the United States. This means that if you plead guilty to a crime, you could be deported and separated from your family in some circumstances. Having a criminal record can also make it more difficult for you to visit the United States and apply for citizenship, making it even harder for you to reunite with your family.
A Criminal Conviction Can Make You Liable in a Civil Case
Depending on the specific crime you are accused of, pleading guilty could leave you vulnerable to a civil lawsuit. A guilty plea in a criminal case can be used as proof of liability in civil cases, and losing a civil suit could cost you a significant amount of money when you are already in a difficult position.
Contact an Experienced Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today
The Chicago criminal defense lawyers of Sexner & Associates LLC have negotiated thousands of plea agreements on behalf of criminal defendants, and we have seen firsthand what happens when a defendant takes a deal without giving it due consideration. That is why we strongly recommend you speak with one of our attorneys before accepting any plea deal.
Be sure to talk it over with a knowledgeable, experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC today at 800-996-4824 for a free consultation with a Chicago criminal defense lawyer.