Do you really need to get a private attorney to deal with a misdemeanor drug charge? If you're being offered a plea deal that avoids jail time, it can seem like a good idea at the time to just accept it and move on, even if there's nor real evidence against you, especially if you're hoping to keep the charges quiet and avoid letting friends or family know what's happened. However, you need to understand how you're being manipulated by a system that's slanted against you and how that misdemeanor conviction can affect your future before you accept a deal. This is what you should know.
Trials are becoming increasingly rare in the U.S. court system.
It's an open secret that 9 out of 10 federal and state criminal defendants get their "day in court" only when they're there to plead guilty. In fact, the trial system established and assured by the Constitution has been deliberately engineered over the years by the government to encourage people not to use it.
The courts are so overly-burdened right now that not putting through as many plea deals is burdensome to the state. In fact, if too many defendants demanded their right to a trial, it could crash the system. So prosecutors use tactics like overcharging (choosing to charge a defendant with a felony when the crime could also be prosecuted as a misdemeanor) and then offering to drop the charge to a lesser offense as a way to get panicked defendants to accept a plea. Many assume that it's not so bad to have a misdemeanor drug conviction on their record and will plead out in order to avoid the risk of a felony conviction.
Those charged with a misdemeanor in the first place—often bewildered first-time offenders—are met with a system that's so rushed it's picked up names like "assembly line justice" and "McJustice." Defendants are routinely pressured into accepting a plea by everyone from the judge hearing their case to their own public defender. Since the conviction from a misdemeanor plea deal typically results in a fine and probation instead of jail time, defendants often play along—even when it isn't in their best interests to do so. Someone innocent may make a plea deal just so they can go home and get back to work and their family with minimal disruption to their lives. Someone guilty may figure they might as well plead out, never realizing that there's not enough legal evidence to convict them and that the prosecution would probably have to drop the case if it were challenged by an aggressive defense.
Any conviction or criminal record can ruin your future in unexpected ways.
A misdemeanor conviction can still show up on your background check with a future employer or a future landlord. It's also a matter of public record, which means that anybody who really wants to dig into your life—even a decade into the future—can dig up the information and use it to smear your reputation.
Imagine what could happen if you're a college student who accepts a plea deal to a misdemeanor drug charge (maybe hoping your parents will never find out) that lets you off with a fine and a short probation. Then, a few years later, every job prospect you have seems to end at the background check because employers are afraid to take on an employee with a potential drug habit. Or maybe you get past that hurdle but go on to work in an area where personal reputations matter a great deal, like teaching. One of your internet-savvy students can someday find your record and broadcasts it to the community. That could lead to community reactions that cost you your job as nervous parents worry about your morality or wonder if you still have a secret drug habit.
It can also affect you in adverse ways if you're ever charged again. One misdemeanor charge might not seem like much, but if you get picked up again for something, that misdemeanor becomes a "prior record" that could influence whether or not you get jail time. A judge can see you as someone who failed to learn a lesson by being let off lightly and give you a stiffer sentence the next time around—whether you deserve it or not.
Don't let a misdemeanor drug crime ruin your future. Get in contact with criminal defense attorneys like Barbour & Simpkins LLP who can help you fight the charges and stay out of the trap the current justice system has set.