If you plead guilty in a federal case, it is an admission that you have violated the law. However, a guilty plea generally comes with a promise to reduce the severity of your sentence. Let’s take a closer look at the potential pros and cons of your decision.
A Guilty Plea Is Akin to a Conviction
The most important thing to understand about a guilty plea is that it will lead to a criminal conviction. This can be incredibly important to understand if you have previous convictions on your record. In such a scenario, admitting wrongdoing could result in a lengthy prison sentence regardless of the charges that you face.
A Guilty Plea Is Typically Connected to an Agreement With Prosecutors
Assuming that your case is like most others, your guilty plea will be entered after reaching a plea deal with the prosecution. Agreeing to a deal may allow you to avoid jail time or limit the amount of time that you must spend in custody. Furthermore, you may be able to avoid losing a professional license or other penalties that might have a significant impact on your life after serving your sentence.
The Judge In Your Case Will Make Sure That You Understand Your Decision
As pleading guilty waives your right to a trial, the judge in your case will want to make sure that you understand the significance of your decision. At a minimum, you will be questioned to ensure that the decision was made of your own free will. If necessary, you may be subject to a competency hearing to further ensure that you are capable of pleading guilty regardless of why you are doing so.
You Can Withdraw Your Guilty Plea Prior to Sentencing
It’s worth noting that a guilty plea is not set in stone until the judge announces your sentence. Even then, it may be possible to appeal the sentence that you have been given. Therefore, if you aren’t comfortable about your decision to outright admit your guilt or accept a plea deal, you reserve the right to change your mind.
Make Sure to Talk to Your Attorney Prior to Pleading Guilty
Before agreeing to plead guilty in your case, it’s important to evaluate your options with the help of counsel. Your attorney will be able to talk more about the terms of a proposed plea deal and how it might impact your future. Legal counsel may also be able to provide insight into whether you may be subject to additional penalties based on your previous criminal record.
It’s worth noting that your advocate will likely be aware of your criminal history when negotiating any plea deal on your behalf. However, it may not be a bad idea to provide some background information on your own just to be sure that your counselor can do his or her job effectively.
There Is No Guarantee That the Judge Will Abide by a Plea Agreement
You should know that there is no guarantee that the judge in your case will accept the terms of a proposed plea agreement. Instead, your sentence will be determined by the facts in the case and information contained within a sentencing report. However, prosecutors generally don’t offer plea terms that they don’t think a judge will be content with.
Pleading guilty to one or more charges is the likely outcome in your federal case. However, it’s important to take your time before deciding if a specific agreement is worth taking. Your attorney will be able to help you evaluate the merits of a given proposal, and this person will also likely play a key role in negotiating the best possible deal in your matter.
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