Being charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Virginia is a serious matter. One of the most important decisions you will need to make in your criminal case is whether you should plead guilty to the crime you are charged with committing or to a less serious offense as part of a plea bargain. Here are considerations you should think about before deciding what to do.
Five Factors to Consider Before Deciding to Plead Guilty
The decision whether to plead guilty or to take your case to a trial is yours to make. There could be real benefits of entering a guilty plea if the evidence against is strong or the prosecutor offers you a good plea agreement. For example, you may receive a lesser punishment.
However, you need to weigh your options carefully. Here are five things you should think about when making your decision:
- Right to a lawyer. You have a right to an attorney in a criminal case in Virginia. If you cannot afford one, the court would appoint one to represent you at no cost to you. You should not make a decision to plead guilty without first consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
- Difficulty withdrawing a plea. If you plead guilty and later change your mind, you must withdraw the plea before the judge issues your sentence or postpones a hearing on your sentence in Virginia. Once you are sentenced, your ability to take back a guilty plea is severely limited.
- Waiver of defenses. You are waiving your right to raise your defenses and try to have evidence against you suppressed that could significantly weaken the prosecutor’s case against you. Depending on the strength of your defenses or the evidence that is found to be inadmissible, you may be limiting your ability to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a much less serious offense with less harsh penalties.
- Your sentence. You could face a harsh sentence if you plead guilty, especially if you are not entering into a plea agreement. Even if the prosecutor agrees to recommend a reduced sentence in exchange for your plea, the judge will make the final decision on your punishment.
- Criminal record. If you enter a guilty plea, you will be convicted of committing a crime. You will have a permanent criminal record that could affect your ability to obtain employment, housing, education, loans, and more.
Consult With a Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Are you facing criminal charges in Virginia? Your best option is to retain a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At The Wilson Law Firm, we will mount an aggressive defense and explain your options to you so that you achieve the best possible outcome given your situation. To learn more about how we can help you, call our Manassas office or start a live chat to schedule your free consultation today.