If you've been charged with a felony crime, your future might hang in the balance of how you choose to fight your charges. Working with a licensed and experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area should be your top priority. In many cases, your best bet is to attempt to plead down your felony to a lesser misdemeanor crime.
Here's what you should know about this process and how you can help your attorney secure the best outcome for your case.
One of the most difficult aspects of pleading down a felony to a misdemeanor is admitting guilt for a crime you may not think you committed.
Rather than pleading guilty to a lesser crime, your attorney might be able to enter a no contest plea. This means that you aren't admitting to a crime, but you're agreeing to settle with the prosecution to resolve the case in question. The benefit of entering a no contest plea is that the punishment is often far less severe. For instance, if your attorney pleads your driving under the influence (DUI) down to a reckless driving charge, your license may not be suspended. Additionally, the parole and probation assessed in plea bargains can sometimes substitute for time behind bars.
Not all felony charges or defendants are eligible to plead down charges.
Not all felony charges are eligible for plea deals. This eligibility varies from state to state and depends on the felony. For instance, in Mississippi, defendants can often plead down charges of possession of a firearm to reckless endangerment, but they can't plead down a DUI to a reckless driving charge, while the opposite is true in Texas. The first thing you should do before you hire a criminal defense lawyer is to do a bit of research on your crime and your state. If you find promising results, request that your lawyer provide you with court cases you can verify independently that involve similar felony charges. If you can't find a legal precedent for your state, you probably won't be able to plead down your charges.
Not all defendants can plead down charges. Defendants without criminal records or a history of violent crimes are far more likely to be able to successfully plead down misdemeanor crimes. You must be transparent with your attorney about your past run-ins with the law. If you aren't forthcoming about your past legal challenges, your attorney may not be able to negotiate the plea deal you want.
Before a plea deal can be struck, your attorney will have the opportunity to negotiate the best deal for you.
Your attorney can substantiate that you can safely function in society if you provide references that demonstrate your productivity, responsibility, and integrity. Getting letters of recommendation from your teachers, employers, church clergy, and other figures of authority can be persuasive to the court. When seeking these letters of reference, encourage your references to provide specific examples of your responsibility and integrity. Additionally, if your references provide contact information, the courts may reach out to them to clarify their references and/or provide additional information.
Providing evidence that casts doubt on your guilt can persuade the prosecution that they may not be able to get a conviction in court. If you have any evidence you think can help exonerate you, you should share the information with your attorney. For eyewitness testimonials, having them signed notarized statements and/or giving video statements will ensure that your criminal defense lawyer has solid information that they can present on your behalf. This is particularly important when eyewitness testimonies are a big factor in the case.
Visit criminal defense law websites for additional reading about this subject.