Many people make the mistake of thinking a misdemeanor offense isn’t serious, especially not if it’s a first offense. Any criminal defense attorney will tell you that first offense misdemeanors are a lot more serious than you might think. A misdemeanor isn’t a “minor” crime, and the consequences will have a serious impact on your future. Put simply, the biggest change a person can make to their background check is when they go from having a clean record to having a criminal conviction. By comparison, going from one or two convictions to three or four might not be as big a deal.
Regardless of the severity of the crime or the possible sentence that could be imposed, a criminal conviction will cast a shadow over your prospects and reputation. All too many people feel that just pleading guilty as charged and accepting what comes to them will be the easiest solution. It isn’t.
Personal and material costs
The long-term consequences of a misdemeanor conviction can be extremely unpleasant. Employers will shy away from hiring you, you may discover that you are now ineligible for federal and state assistance programs, and you may even find it difficult to rent a new home . Certain types of crimes are enhanced for repeat offenders, so a first conviction for a misdemeanor can pave the way for more serious punishments or felony charges down the road.
As for probation terms, they are often extremely difficult to comply with, and can result in thousands of dollars of expenditure on your part. If you can’t comply, you could end up being jailed. A large proportion of people placed on probation ultimately spend some time in jail for failing to meet all the conditions of their suspended sentence.
When it comes to traffic offenses, the suspension of drivers’ licenses is among the most difficult penalties to deal with. You still need to get around. Public transport may not be adequate to your needs. A lot of people will just hope they don’t get caught driving without a license, but if they are, they face further charges.
Your criminal defense attorney protects your rights
An astounding percentage of people who are not guilty of criminal charges plead guilty because they are unaware of their rights and the consequences they will have to endure. They may be offered a “softer” sentence for pleading guilty, and they think it’s going to be an easier and cheaper solution than trying to prove their innocence. Your plea bargain offer isn’t a good deal if you’re innocent, and even if you are guilty, you could end up with a harsher sentence than you deserve.
The justice system knows full well that people are easily intimidated into accepting whatever it metes out, and when people don’t know their rights or fully understand the consequences of their sentences, they are particularly vulnerable. As a first offender, you’ve probably never even thought about the consequences of a misdemeanor offense sentence. You have no idea of how the justice system works, and if you’re banking on your “experience” watching TV shows, you will find just how much that is worth when you face your penalty.
Know what to expect – and be defended
A criminal defense attorney will guide you through the legal process you will have to undergo. He or she can tell you exactly what short and long term consequences will be, and will know how to ensure that you receive a fair judgement. Having a legal professional in your corner means you won’t have to deal with a tougher sentence than you deserve.
Just as you’re more careful about what you do when you know you’re being observed by an expert, so judges and prosecutors will be more cautious and mindful in the way they deal with your case. Although legal fees are a reality, the cost of good representation represents a significant saving in personal and financial terms in the long run.
What does your criminal defense attorney do?
Even if your misdemeanor is a first offense, having a criminal defense attorney on your side has many benefits:
- The charges against you and the likely sentences and probation options will be explained to you in detail.
- You will be able to talk honestly and openly about your situation, and your attorney will maintain complete confidentiality.
- You will know your rights during the various stages of criminal proceedings, and you will have a respected professional to defend them.
- The true facts surrounding the case will be properly examined. You should always be completely honest with your criminal defense attorney. After all, he or she is on your side.
- When plea bargains are offered, they will be properly evaluated by someone who understands the consequences of accepting them.
- Plea bargains can be negotiated, and your criminal defense attorney will know how to do this.
- First-offenders programs may be available, and your lawyer can help secure approval for you to participate.
- The terms of a deferred prosecution or other diversion are often open to negotiation, and your defense attorney can work to get terms that will be easier for you to meet.
- If your case goes to trial, your criminal defense attorney will be able to identify inadmissible evidence and inappropriate questions.
- Cross-examination of government witnesses often reveals irregularities and factual shortcomings.
When should you contact a criminal defense attorney?
Remember, you don’t have to tell the authorities anything until you have obtained legal representation. Contact your criminal defense attorney immediately upon becoming aware of charges against you. Do the innocent have nothing to fear? Regretfully, the answer is “no”.
Work with your attorney throughout the legal process. You have the right to demand access to a lawyer, so make use of that right. It has been granted for very good reasons! Nobody is going to judge you for refusing to respond to questions from police or the judiciary without legal assistance.
If you can’t afford a criminal defense attorney, ask for one!
Legal representation isn’t only there for those who can afford it. Courts can appoint lawyers to act on your behalf, but here’s the catch: you have to ask for help before it will be granted. Just knowing that you have the right to a criminal defense attorney, whether you can afford to contract one in your private capacity or not, can make all the difference to the outcome of your case.
Law and justice are not always the same thing, but a criminal defense attorney can ensure that you are treated justly.