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Attorneys are expensive. There's no argument about that.
So, why hire one if you're just planning on pleading guilty? Even if you never plan on going to trial, you will want an attorney who can help you. Here's why:
1. Analyze Your Case
Do you really need to plead? An attorney can look at the evidence in your case, and consider if you have any defenses.
For example, if you were arrested without probable cause, evidence found during the arrest may be suppressed. Take a DUI for example. If the officer did not witness you drive, in some circumstances, you may be able to get your DUI case dismissed.
Even if your case isn't dismissed, an attorney may be able to strengthen your bargaining position by challenging the evidence.
2. Negotiate a Better Plea Deal
The prosecutor offered you 15 days in jail for a first DUI. Is this a good deal? Probably not. In California you could get as little as 96 hours in jail for a first DUI, and an attorney would know that.
Also, you may not want to accept the first offer the prosecutor gives you. An attorney may be able to leverage possible violations committed by the police during your arrest or evidence supporting your position to negotiate a shorter plea deal.
3. Ask for a Diversion Program
Did you know about diversion programs? An attorney does.
Depending on the circumstances of your arrest and alleged crime, you may be eligible for a diversion program. Diversion often allows you to avoid conviction for a crime if you meet certain specified conditions, such as take classes, do community service, and be on probation for a certain amount of time. Once those conditions are met, your charge may be dismissed altogether.
An attorney can determine if you may be eligible for a diversion program and negotiate a diversion agreement with the prosecutor or judge.
4. Advise You On The Consequences of Your Plea
A guilty plea may not just land you in jail. Did you know that a guilty plea could affect your immigration status? Convictions or guilty pleas for certain crimes may make you deportable if you are not a citizen.
An attorney will be able to advise you on other potential consequences of your guilty plea.
5. File The Right Paperwork and Enforce the Plea Deal
So you've negotiated a deal with the prosecutor, and you've pleaded guilty. While you're in jail, who's checking to ensure that the conditions of your plea deal are being enforced?
For example, the prosecutor promises to reduce your felony charge to a misdemeanor after a year of probation. This doesn't happen automatically. You need to go back to court to ask the judge to reduce your charge. An attorney can help you ensure that the conditions of your plea deal are enforced in your favor.
Even if you know you broke a law, and want to plead guilty, consult with an experienced defense attorney first before you do so. It can make all the difference.