Those accused of criminal conduct in Oklahoma often respond improperly to their charges. The fear of prosecution and bad publicity may push some people to enter a guilty plea when facing criminal charges. They think that by taking accountability for prior conduct, they can minimize the consequences of the charges that they face. The fear of the worst-case outcome is part of the reason why almost all federal defendants and a large portion of state defendants plead guilty to the charges they face, sometimes even while still maintaining their innocence.
It is certainly true that people resolve criminal charges more quickly when they plead guilty, but a faster resolution is not always the best outcome. Those who plead guilty to major criminal charges in Oklahoma put themselves at risk of numerous consequences. The following are some of the most significant concerns associated with a guilty plea.
There is no guarantee of lenience
The assumption that many criminal defendants make that a judge should be lenient when sentencing them after a guilty plea is a dangerous one. Every judge has their own perspective on different types of criminal offenses. Some judges pride themselves on being tough on crime and setting an example by imposing harsh penalties. Most of the time, entering a guilty plea does nothing to prevent a judge from imposing the harshest penalties possible under Oklahoma state law.
Crimes often carry secondary consequences
A criminal conviction doesn’t just lead to criminal penalties. There are often secondary consequences that can forever alter someone’s life. A licensed professional, for example might lose their professional licensing after pleading guilty to a criminal infraction. Someone who works in the military or law enforcement may find that the Second Amendment consequences of certain criminal charges, like domestic violence charges, could effectively end their careers. Some charges may also have driver’s license penalties. Secondary consequences can have a major chilling effect on someone’s opportunities after they plead guilty.
A criminal record can haunt someone for life
Sometimes, guilty pleas lead to someone having a lesser offense on their criminal record. They might then assume that they will have fewer issues passing background checks. Unfortunately, employers, landlords and other parties performing background checks often assume that those who plead guilty to a lesser offense were in fact guilty of the more serious offense for which the state arrested them. While their record might be for a misdemeanor, other parties may treat them as though they pleaded guilty to a felony.
The only way to eliminate the risks of a conviction is to defend against charges successfully in the first place. Reviewing the state’s case with a defense attorney can be a good starting point for those who want to minimize the consequences of pending criminal charges.