If you are facing criminal charges, you may be tempted to plead guilty and get rid of the issue as soon as possible, especially if you consider the charges minor. Unfortunately, not many people understand the consequences of pleading guilty to a crime. Therefore, you need to do at least these three things before entering a guilty plea:
Ensure You Understand All the Charges You're Facing
A single criminal act may attract multiple criminal charges. For example, if you have been arrested for using a fake ID, you can be charged with fraud identify theft, and possession of a fake ID, among other charges. It's also possible for two criminal suspects to be charged with different crimes despite committing the same act. For example, a DUI (driving under the influence) suspect may be charged with a misdemeanor because it is their first DUI while another one is charged with aggravated DUI because it is their third offense. Don't forget that the different level of charges attracts different penalties.
Therefore, make sure you understand exactly the charges you are facing, and their respective levels of seriousness, before pleading guilty. Otherwise, you may think you are pleading guilty to a misdemeanor or to one criminal charge while, in the real sense, you are pleading guilty to a felony or multiple crimes.
Ensure You Understand the Sentencing
You also need to know the maximum sentence, which is what you are likely to get, that the crime you have been charged with committing can attract. Don't assume, for example, that you will be sentenced to community service because that is what your friend got when they were convicted of the same crime. The laws may have changed, the judge may be different, your criminal history may be different—all these will affect the outcome of your case.
Ensure You Understand the Possible Consequences
Lastly, you should know that the consequences of a criminal conviction go beyond the official sentencing as read by the judge. A criminal conviction can affect many aspects of your life even long after you have served the official sentence. For example, a criminal conviction can make it difficult for you to get an educational scholar, get or maintain a job or even travel out of the country. The long-term consequences depend on the nature of your crime, the seriousness of the crime, the sentencing, and the laws of your state, among other things.
Ultimately, you owe it to yourself to consult a criminal law attorney before making a guilty plea. If you don't have an attorney, just enter a not guilty plea and look for one; after all, you can always change your plea if there is a need.