In Florida, those charged with the commission of a crime are entitled to be represented by an attorney during the trial, and those who cannot afford an attorney may obtain one from the public defender’s office at no cost to them. However, attorney representation is not required, and many Florida defendants enter a guilty plea without engaging an attorney at all.
Pleading guilty without first consulting a Florida attorney is nearly always a mistake. What follows is an examination of the reasons why you need a competent Florida criminal law attorney even if you plan to plead guilty.
Pleading Guilty May Be Worse Option Than You Think
Maybe you just want to get the trial over with. Or maybe you think a guilty plea automatically means a lesser sentence. Maybe you are factually guilty of the crime and wish to take responsibility.
Although pleading guilty may seem like the best and most responsible option available to you, your case may have facts and circumstances that you are unaware of, and those facts and circumstances may hurt you more than you know in the long run.
For instance, your case may have an exculpatory piece of evidence that either greatly weakens the case against you or may even lead to acquittal. Letting an attorney put a second set of eyes on the case may yield such a piece of evidence, even if you are fully aware of everything that will be brought up at trial.
On the other hand, there may be a fact or circumstance about your case that will make the punishment for your crime harsher than it would be ordinarily. Only an experienced Florida attorney can properly identify those facts and circumstances, and they may be able to address those facts and circumstances with the court in a way that will not make your criminal penalty even worse.
You May Get A Better Deal With An Attorney
Frequently prosecutors offer defendants a plea deal, which means that the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for a lesser punishment. This seems like a good deal, but it may not be the best deal you can get. Is X years of probation on the low or the high end of the penalty scale for crime Y? Are the prosecution and the court likely to accept a better plea deal than the one you are currently being offered? Only an experienced Florida criminal law attorney can give you the most accurate advice regarding your plea deal.
Pleading guilty to a crime is not something to do lightly. In addition to having the crime on your record, a guilty plea may open you up to civil liability, meaning you may end up being sued over the crime to which you pled guilty. Pleading guilty to some crimes may lead to increased insurance costs as well, or it may lead to the suspension of a license you hold. A guilty plea also usually means you waive the right to appeal the case later on, closing the door to just about any possible reversal of your case at the appellate level at a later date.