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A criminal conviction can have serious consequences that affect you for the rest of your life and extend well beyond any jail time or probation and the fines you must pay. You may be restricted in what type of job you can hold, and lose other basic rights, such as your right to possess a firearm. A guilty plea counts as a conviction.
Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent
Too many people still believe that if you are innocent you have nothing to worry about and no reason to exercise your right to remain silent or to consult with a criminal defense attorney. In fact, some people fear that exercising their legal right to speak to an attorney will imply that they are guilty.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Once you are arrested it is the prosecutor’s goal to convict you, not to determine whether you are guilty or innocent.
When arrested, defendants often feel compelled to explain what happened, tell their side of the story, and try to talk their way out of the charges. It does not work. The phrase, “anything you say can and will be used against you,” means that anything you say can and will be twisted and taken out of context if that is what it takes to get a conviction.
Consenting to a Search
Law enforcement officers can legally conduct very limited warrantless searches if they have probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime is occurring or has occurred.
This is rocky territory for the prosecution because your defense attorney can challenge the validity of the search and may be able to have any evidence produced by the search ruled inadmissible and, in some cases, even have your entire case thrown out.
However, if you give your consent to a warrantless search, all bets are off. In most cases, if an officer asks for your permission to search you should politely refuse. By giving permission you give up substantial rights and potential defenses in your case.
You should not accept a plea agreement without talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney first.
Prosecutors will typically offer defendants the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge with a lesser punishment, to avoid the risks of going to trial. This always benefits the prosecutor because it is a guaranteed win. While there are certainly cases where you might also benefit from a plea agreement, if you are not represented by an attorney you may be pleading guilty in a case that the prosecutor knows is full of holes and will not stand up in court