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Before Pleading Guilty, Consider Your Options

If you're facing a criminal charge, you undoubtedly want to put the matter behind you as soon as possible. For many people, that means taking a plea deal rather than going to trial.

But before you plead guilty to a serious criminal charge, consider this: a criminal conviction could follow you throughout your life. A conviction could affect everything from where you work to whether you can leave the country. So, before you plead guilty, consider every available option for fighting the charge.

What the prosecutor may offer, and what you may get

A prosecutor may try to frame a plea deal as a reasonable option. Depending on the charge, the prosecutor may reduce the length of a jail sentence or seek to reduce any fines. Plea deals are ideal for prosecutors because the state avoids a costly trial and prosecutors get the result they're looking for.

But a plea also means you are stuck with a conviction that could follow you for years, if not your entire life.

These are some of the ways convictions can impact your life:

  • Hunting and shooting: A felony or domestic violence conviction can prohibit a person from possessing a firearm. OWIs and other charges can prevent you from entering Canada, even for hunting trips.
  • College financial aid: Drug convictions can prevent students from receiving federal student aid. This can last for years or even span indefinitely. This is obviously a huge roadblock in someone's path to a college degree.
  • Running for office: Felonies and misdemeanors that include "violation of public trust" make you ineligible for any government office in Wisconsin. This includes positions like mayor, sheriff and city council.
  • Public housing: Federal housing standards have strict rules for not only housing applicants but anyone living there. A conviction for certain crimes can leave you banned from staying with anyone who lives in public housing.
  • Employment: Many professions with licensing requirements have strict standards about criminal histories. These licenses can be difficult (or outright impossible) to get with a criminal history. Professions with limitations for criminal backgrounds include attorneys, chiropractors, firefighters and law enforcement.

These are just a few of the ways a conviction can impact your life years afterward. If you are facing criminal charges, take this into consideration before accepting any plea deal. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you mount your best defense.

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