Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Pleading "Guilty" the Right Way
I understand that the optimal result for anyone charged with a crime is to see it dismissed or in the alternative to have a judge or jury find them not guilty. However, there are those times - whether it's that the State's case is a strong one or a client just wishes to not have a trial and to be done with the whole affair - that I am tasked with answering one of the most difficult questions a defense attorney has to hear: "If I (have to) plead guilty - is there anything that can be done to lessen how that will look on my record?"
How Do I Plead Guilty?
As a former prosecutor and as an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney, I know that proper representation can have a huge impact on limiting the impact that a "guilty" plea will have on an individual's record. Believe it or not, there are a number of alternative dispositions (short of a plea of a straight-up "guilty" plea) that are used to conclude cases everyday in courts throughout the state. Some of these options include:
I. Certification of an Offense as a Petty Misdemeanor
The answer to the question: when is a crime not a crime - is when that crime/offense is charged as and/or reduced to a Petty Misdemeanor. According to statute, petty offenses do not constitute crimes. Therefore, if say the Misdemeanor you were initially charged with is later reduced to a Petty Misdemeanor - at any date in the future if you are ever asked if you have been convicted of a criminal offense - as it concerns that offense - you can truthfully answer "no."
II. Stay of Adjudication
Under a stay of adjudication, an individual admits to facts in court that would support a conviction; however, instead of accepting the plea, a judge (after an agrrement has been reached with the government) withholds a finding of guilt, for a period of time, usually on the condition that that individual do (or do not do) certain things. If you sufficiently comply with those conditions, the matter will ultimately be dismissed and the plea will be vacated.
III. Continuance for Dismissal (and/or Without a Plea)
This outcome is similar in form to a Stay of Adjudication - insofar as the ultimate result could end up being a dismissal; however, instead of setting forth facts that would support a conviction, the government usually agrees to end its prosecution after a certain period of time - provided that the offender pays some prosecution/court costs and/or is not charged with any same or similar type offenses before that time period expires.
IV. Stay of Imposition:
For more serious offenses, like Felonies, an individual may plead guilty (or even be found to be guilty;) however, instead of sentencing him/her on said Felony - judges can stay imposition of the sentence for a period of time on certain terms and conditions. If the individual complies with those terms, their Felony "conviction" could ultimately be reduced to/designated a Misdemeanor. As such, all the collateral consequences that go along with a Felony conviction should not be a factor in your life going forward.
V. Diversionary Programs
Certain cities and counties have programs in place that allow individuals to avoid a conviction if they agree to participate and comply with the terms of these classes. An example would be if someone successfully completed traffic school - a moving violation would be dismissed.
What Should You Do?
At the end of the day, as with almost anything involving the government, there are no guarantees that you'll be afforded any of these opportunities. However, retaining an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney may afford you a better chance to negotiate such an arrangement - on almost any type of charge.
If you want more information about your rights and to discuss how an attorney might be able to negotiate a result for you that works, contact The Rolloff Law Office today to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.