Think About 5 Factors Before You Plead Guilty to Florida Criminal Charges
When you have been arrested on criminal charges in Florida, it is wise to consider all potential outcomes to the case. Unless there are technical grounds or other reasons for a dismissal, you could go to trial before a judge or jury. If found guilty, you could be facing jail time, fines, and other criminal punishment; plus, there are many collateral consequences when you have a conviction on your criminal record. On the other hand, there may be options for plea bargaining. If you can arrange an agreement with the prosecution and the judge accepts it, you might benefit from lesser charges, a lighter sentence, and other benefits.
However, a plea bargain is not always the best route for every criminal case. There are multiple issues to consider in consultation with your Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney. Five factors to keep in mind before entering a guilty plea include:
- You cannot dispute unlawful evidence. If officers violated your civil rights under the Florida Constitution in connection with the arrest, you will not have the opportunity to raise the issue. Typically, your attorney would allege any misconduct by police – including unlawful search and seizure – during pre-trial stages of a criminal case. When you bypass proceedings through entering a guilty plea, you cannot argue that evidence should be excluded due to a civil rights violation.
- You might have a defense or other strategies for beating the charges. Besides fighting the allegations on the grounds of your civil rights, there may be other ways to defend yourself. Examples include:
- Claims of self-defense;
- Lack of specific intent;
- Victim’s consent;
- Mistake of fact; and,
- Many others.
- The potential sentence may be extremely harsh. Even when you enter a guilty plea to a lesser charge, the range of punishment under Florida sentencing guidelines could be severe. Many crimes work according to statutory maximums, and a judge can impose a prison term up to the limit once you plead guilty. In some cases, the sentence could be similar to the crime with which you were originally charged.
- You probably cannot take back your guilty plea: Depending at what point you work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor, you may not be able to change your mind. Your guilty plea will likely stand once your case concludes, though there are some circumstances in which you can seek to withdraw it for good cause.
- A guilty plea still goes on your permanent criminal record: For official purposes, your case goes in the books as a conviction. It will show up if you are required to undergo a background check, such as for employment.
Speak with a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Regarding Your Options
If you were arrested and want to know more about plea bargaining to resolve the charges, it is essential to work with experienced legal counsel before taking action. There may be defenses, which would make an agreement an inappropriate, poor decision. For legal help with your case, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik to schedule a confidential consultation at our office.