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Consequences of Guilty Plea

June 30, 2020

Consequences of Guilty Plea

The legal system is very complicated. Many people have little understanding of how it may affect their lives. Anyone who is involved in any kind of dealing with this system must understand the right course of action for their personal circumstances. One of the most serious of all legal actions is the decision to enter a guilty plea. Admitting to engaging in criminal activity can affect almost everything a person does now as well as what they are able to do in the future. Indigent defendants may be barred from everything from access to food stamps to the ability to live in public housing or take out student loans in order to attend college and enter a future profession. More affluent defendants may face considerable losses. This includes their personal property as well as the possible suspension of licenses that allow them to practice professions such as medicine and law.

Ineffective Legal Counsel

While a guilty plea is one that has a certain finality, there are times when it is possible to overturn the guilty plea and get access to a more favorable outcome. Under law, all those facing charges are entitled to legal representation. This means that the lawyer who took their case must meet certain professional standards. For example, someone who represents themselves as a member of the bar but has in fact been suspended from the bar may be considered ineffective legal counsel. If the lawyer was clearly misbehaving during any legal proceedings such as drinking alcohol or obviously tired, this can also lead to the possibility of having the case reopened and the effects of the guilty plea examined again or even completely dismissed.

Anyone who is seeking to have their case reopened or have it completed dismissed should be aware of the kinds of circumstances in which this is legally allowed. In order for a case to examined again even after a guilty plea, the defendant needs to demonstrate two different issues. They need to show that the lawyer did a lousy job. They also need to show that the lawyer’s neglect and incompetence made a difference in their case even if they agreed to a guilty plea. Keep in mind these standards can be very hard to meet.

The Overall Case

Part of this argument rests on the competence of the accused. A court will examine the defendant’s emotion state and their ability to understand written and oral communications. A defendant with a clear ability to communicate in writing and an advanced degree, for example, will have a tough time convincing court officials they did not understand the consequences of the guilty plea even if their lawyer was obviously intoxicated. However, a high school student who been accused of a serious crime or someone from a disadvantaged socio-economic background may be better suited to making such a plea to the higher courts.

The same is true of a weak defense. If the evidence clearly indicates that the person did the crime, the courts will generally ignore the fact that the person plead guilty. The fact that the lawyer behaved in an egregious manner has little to do with the view that the defendant would have been found guilty or agreed to plead guilty even if they had more effective counsel on their side.

A Hard Argument

An argument of this kind can be hard to make as the presumption is the person made the guilty plea of their own volition. There are, however, circumstances in which this kind of plea can be effective. If the lawyer did not negotiate or failed to convey accurate information without bias, this can be an avenue that allows for the case to be revisited even after the client pleads guilty. The same is true if the lawyer did not do a good job in conveying the risks to the defendant if they agreed to this kind of plea. An appellant court can examine the case and see if the guilty plea was conducted under duress, leading the defendant to confess to a crime they did not commit or had no more than minimal involvement. Good legal counsel can accomplish this desired goal.

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