A Former Prosecutor Defending Clients in Wyoming and South Dakota

Why Do I Need a Lawyer If I Plan to Plead Guilty?

Many people charged with a crime feel hopeless, believing that the best thing to do is to just enter a guilty plea and put the case behind them. They often wonder, “Why do I need a lawyer if I plan to plead guilty?”

Others cite financial reasons, thinking it seems like a waste of money to pay a lawyer if they’re going to end up pleading guilty anyway. 

There may be some apparent advantages to a quick guilty plea, but they are often outweighed by the benefits of consulting with a lawyer. 

While it is true that more than 90% of criminal cases result in some kind of plea as opposed to going to trial, this certainly does not mean that all of these people plead guilty without first working through their case with a lawyer. 

Most guilty pleas come after lengthy negotiations between the prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer. Plea bargains are often the result of a defense lawyer looking at various ways to challenge the evidence, and prosecutor agreeing to accept a plea to a lesser offense.  

Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you better understand the charges against you as well as collateral consequences to a guilty plea. An attorney will protect your rights, and may be able to help you negotiate a better plea bargain. 

A Lawyer Can Help You Understand the Charges and Potential Penalties

A criminal defense lawyer will help you fully understand the nature of the charges against you, and the implications of a guilty plea. 

A criminal defense lawyer has an ethical duty to ensure that you:

  • Understand the charges you are facing
  • Understand the potential penalties you face if you plead guilty
  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of the government’s case against you
  • Make the decision to enter a guilty freely, knowingly, and voluntarily

Too many criminal defendants are intimidated by overly aggressive police officers and prosecutors who lead them to believe that the government’s case is rock-solid. They also often fail to inform the accused of the potential collateral consequences of a guilty plea. Sometimes these consequences can have complicated and far-reaching effects. 

Other times people feel like they will get better treatment if they “cooperate fully” and that “owning up” to their mistakes will help them avoid the consequences. 

A lawyer’s job is to explain the elements of the charges against you, and to help you understand how the state may not be able to meet their burden of proof to convict you beyond a reasonable doubt

A Lawyer Will Protect Your Rights

If you have been charged with a crime, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecutor has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed the crime. 

These words are heard so often that many people forget their significance. But they have a very real and important meaning, especially if you have been charged with a crime. 

An experienced criminal defense lawyer will review the charges and the evidence against you and help you decide if and when it makes to plead guilty. 

Sometimes police and prosecutors make mistakes. When that happens, your lawyer can file a Motion to Suppress and potentially have some of the evidence excluded. If this happens, the prosecutor will have a much more difficult time proving you guilty. It also means you may not have to plead guilty to a crime that the prosecutor could not prove at trial. 

There Might Be Collateral Consequences to a Guilty Plea

In addition to the judicial penalties that come with a guilty plea (jail time, fines, and court costs), there are other non-judicial penalties that many people are unaware of. For example, a guilty plea can lead to:

  • Suspension or loss of a driver’s license
  • Probation
  • Professional discipline
  • Loss of a professional license
  • Lost earnings or employment opportunities
  • Inability to carry a firearm
  • Loss of voting rights
  • Deportation
  • Interference with visitation or custody of minor children
  • Loss of public housing options

Although these penalties are not part of the judicial sentencing, they can have a profound impact on your life that can be worse than the court’s sentence if you plead guilty. 

A Lawyer Might Be Able to Help You Negotiate a Better Plea to a Lesser Charge

A criminal defense lawyer can help you negotiate the terms of a plea bargain. 

Despite what the prosecutor and police might tell you, there is always room to negotiate. 

Lawyers are professional negotiators who know how to work with prosecutors for sentencing recommendations. A lawyer will know what elements of the case are important to the judge and can present your circumstances in a way that is most beneficial for you. 

In any plea bargain, you may be able to change the crime you are admitting to. This can help reduce the penalties. Or you may have the same penalties but be able to avoid some of the non-judicial complications that come with a guilty plea. 

Other times you may be able to agree to enter a plea of No Contest which might reduce your punishment or the impact of a guilty plea on civil cases that might arise.   

Just Criminal Law - Protecting Your One Shot at Justice

If you or someone you care about was charged with a crime and is considering pleading guilty, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer first. 

At Just Criminal Law, my team of criminal defense professionals will work hard to protect your one shot at justice. We will investigate the evidence against you and make a recommendation about whether it makes sense to plead guilty. We can also challenge the evidence and how it was collected, which can lead to having the charged reduced or having the case thrown out.

Contact Just Criminal Law today to schedule your personalized case review and strategy session. Call 307-686-6556, email inquiry@justcriminallaw.com, or complete our online form. 

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.

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