Why Taking a Plea Deal Can Protect Your Future

Getting convicted of a crime, whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony, can have a negative impact on your future. For example, depending on your conviction, you might lose your driver’s license, have your professional status or certification revoked, and be unable to vote. You also might have a hard time finding housing and employment once you’re released from prison.

While you can’t avoid conviction in all cases, you might be able to take a plea deal to lessen your charges and reduce the time you spend in jail and the fines you’re ordered to pay. A good criminal defense attorney will make sure you’re getting a good deal before you accept.

Whether you’re facing charges right now or just curious, here’s why taking a plea deal can protect your future.

  1. A plea deal can reduce your charges

When you’re offered a plea deal, you’re being given the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for your initial charge(s) being dropped and/or reduced fines and jail time. For example, a common plea deal will drop a DUI charge and replace it with reckless driving. It may not seem like a big deal since both charges are serious, but there is a difference.

With a DUI conviction, you can’t get a job that requires driving, even for a company like Uber. Taking a part-time job as a delivery driver will be out of the question, and you’ll likely never be able to get your CDL. Even if you get your driver’s license back, if you drive for a living, you’ll probably have to find a new line of work. You might even find it hard to get a job that doesn’t involve driving since many employers put applications in the rejection pile when they see a DUI conviction.

On the other hand, with a reckless driving conviction, you might be able to convince a business to hire you as a driver if it’s not against their company policy. It can be easier to find a job as well. Employers aren’t allowed to discriminate and reject applicants solely because of criminal convictions that don’t put the business in danger, but it happens all the time. Although a reckless driving conviction will look bad, it won’t look as bad as a DUI to potential employers.

  1. A misdemeanor charge can preserve your right to vote

If you get offered a plea deal that will drop felony charges if you plead guilty to a misdemeanor, it’s probably worth taking, especially if you care about retaining the right to vote.

With the exception of Maine and Vermont, a felony conviction will remove your right to vote either for a specific period of time or permanently, depending on your state’s laws. In some states, like South Carolina, your voting rights will be restored once you’ve completed your sentence, whether it’s prison, parole, or probation. However, some states will only consider restoring a felon’s voting rights after they’ve petitioned the government, and applications are regularly rejected.

  1. Not taking a plea deal might remove your right to own firearms

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone the right to own firearms, but that right is taken away after a felony conviction. If you care about being able to protect yourself or go target shooting, a plea deal that lessens your charge to a misdemeanor will protect your right to bear arms.

  1. Some felons can’t get a passport

While a felony conviction won’t prevent you from getting a passport, the consequences might. For example, if you’re convicted of a serious felony and forbidden from leaving the U.S., you won’t be able to get a passport. Pleading guilty to a lesser charge might help you avoid conditions of probation that would otherwise ban you from having a passport.

Don’t plead guilty right away – talk to your lawyer first

If you’re tempted to plead guilty because you think it’s the easiest way to get through your ordeal, talk to your attorney. It’s most likely not the best move, even if you believe you have no chance in court.

Today, most criminal convictions are the result of plea agreements rather than jury convictions. Plea deals speed up the legal process in what is usually an overloaded environment. However, you won’t get an offer if you plead guilty. If you’re facing criminal charges, be sure to talk to your lawyer about all of your options and carefully consider their advice if and when you’re offered a deal. A plea deal could make a huge difference for your future.