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Why pleading guilty isn’t usually the best course of action

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2024 | Felony Crimes |

Individuals arrested by Texas police officers often worry intensely about what their current legal circumstances might mean for the future. They worry about the attention that could come their way if their case goes to trial. It is also common for people to worry about the worst possible penalties the courts could impose, including incarceration.

Oftentimes, the strategy that people utilize to minimize the consequences of criminal charges may end up backfiring. People frequently plead guilty to pending charges, only to realize later that that was not the best decision given their circumstances.

Why do innocent people plead guilty?

Quite a few people who continue to assert that they did not break the law enter guilty pleas when they go to court. They do so in part because of how prosecutors handle criminal cases. It is common in Texas and elsewhere in the United States for prosecutors to bring the most serious charges possible.

They may charge someone with multiple offenses for a single incident and may try to charge what could be a misdemeanor as a felony offense. Defendants, worried about the worst penalties possible, often plead guilty to avoid the cost of a trial and the risk of severe consequences.

Statistically, the vast majority of defendants in Texas plead guilty instead of trying to prove their innocence. However, what they believe is a harm-reduction tactic can actually lead to a very poor outcome.

The issue with guilty pleas

The first issue with entering a guilty plea is that it results in someone having a criminal record. Even if the state agrees to let someone plead to a lesser offense, their criminal record could hold them back from many opportunities in life.

It is common practice for employers and landlords to assume the worst. If someone pleaded down to a misdemeanor from a felony offense, those performing background checks in the future might assume someone was guilty of the felony. Additionally, a plea does not protect someone from criminal penalties. The courts can still hand down sentences including jail time and fines even if someone cooperates with the courts.

Mounting a thorough criminal defense against pending charges is the only way to potentially protect someone from criminal penalties and a criminal record completely. Defendants who recognize the risk involved in pleading guilty can make more informed decisions about their circumstances.