If you are facing criminal charges, you want your ordeal to be over with as quickly as possible. But do not let your desire for a quick resolution make you rush into entering a guilty plea. The consequences of pleading guilty to a crime in Nevada can last a lifetime.
A Nevada plea bargain is an agreement between an accused and a Nevada prosecutor through which the accused pleads guilty to a crime. A plea bargain takes away the cost and uncertainty of a criminal trial, with the hope that the charge and sentence agreed to would be less than the verdict that could have been entered at the end of the trial.
The attractiveness of entering a plea agreement can be powerful. No legal fees and you can leave the courthouse and get on with your life. But here are four things you should take the time to consider before entering into a plea agreement.
- You may be pleading guilty to a crime. While you may not have to sit through a trial and hear a judge or jury enter a guilty verdict, make no mistake that your plea bargain can be an admission that you have committed a crime. Some misdemeanors and even some felonies can be resolved through what is called “submittal” or “stayed” adjudication” which do not equal a guilty verdict, but all other plea bargains do. Even if the agreement is just for the payment of fines or time served, you will now have a criminal record, with all of the consequences that come from that. It may be more difficult to find employment, pursue your education, purchase or own a firearm, or travel outside the country. If you are an immigrant, it could have a devastating effect on your status and put you at risk for deportation.
- Pleading “No Contest” will still leave you with a criminal record. While pleading “no contest” is not an admission of guilt but simply an admission that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to convict, it will still show up on your criminal record as a conviction.
- You are waiving your right to a trial – and a not guilty verdict. While any criminal trial involves some risk and uncertainty, there are usually numerous defenses and strategies that an experienced and skilled Nevada criminal defense attorney can use to put you in the best position possible at trial. By entering a plea, you are waiving any chance of being found not guilty and exonerated from the charges against you.
- Withdrawing a plea can be hard. If you have “buyer's remorse” after entering into a plea agreement, it can be difficult to withdraw your plea. There are three main arguments for withdrawing a plea:
- The defendant had ineffective assistance of legal counsel.
- The defendant did not make the plea knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.
- The defendant was not informed that probation may be unavailable.
Simply changing your mind or having second thoughts is usually not going to be a winning argument for withdrawing a plea. Whether or not you are considering a plea bargain, you should always speak to an experienced Nevada criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after being charged with a crime. (Also see our article, What are Nevada sentencing hearings?)