A criminal record is a criminal record, and even a misdemeanor charge can have some chilling effects on the way you live your life. That being said, however, there are occasions when agreeing to a lesser charge may be your best and only option.
For example, if you admit to a crime that you actually committed, and you are offered a misdemeanor charge in lieu of a felony charge, accepting the lesser charge may be your only way to avoid a trial, or to avoid going to prison.
Generally speaking, the penalties for a felony conviction are more severe. They include longer prison sentences and greater fines. On release from prison, it is much harder to find employment if you have been convicted of a felony. It is also harder to find a place to live. It may be harder to obtain a loan. A felony conviction makes it much harder to obtain a professional license; if you already have a license, you could lose it, as well as your right to own a firearm. You may not need to check in with a probation officer as often if you have a misdemeanor and not a felony record.
Why do prosecutors negotiate plea bargains?
The prosecution may agree to the reduction of charges for some or all of the following reasons:
- The prosecutor may believe that the witnesses who they need aren’t credible, can’t identify you, or are unable to remember fully what happened.
- The prosecutor is afraid that crucial evidence may be suppressed because it was seized illegally or for other reasons.
- The prosecution understands the confessions or statements they have were not given voluntarily.
- There was a failure to give you your Miranda rights in a case where this is important.
- The judge assigned to the case is likely going to be critical of the prosecution’s case.
- The prosecutor believes that he or she may not be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
- There is a backlog of cases and other cases need to be tried before your case.
- The charges don’t merit a felony.
If I want to plead to a misdemeanor, do I need a criminal defense lawyer?
Yes, you do. Your lawyer is the person who is going to negotiate that lesser charge for you. If prosecutors believe they have a strong case, they are not going to want to negotiate a lesser charge with you simply because you say you are a good person. If the case against you is weak, but you don’t have an attorney to represent your best interest, you could end up being charged with and convicted of a felony, anyway.
If you are charged with a felony, your criminal defense lawyer has the knowledge and experience to negotiate the lesser charge, or to fight for an outright dismissal of charges. Should you end up going to trial, your lawyer is the one who will fight to have you acquitted of all charges. You don’t want to hire a lawyer too late in the process, because certain avenues for better options may no longer be available at that time.
At Carey Law office, our first priority is to obtain a dismissal of the criminal charges – at either the preliminary hearing stage, after a motion to suppress hearing, or after other legal motions are heard. When it is best from a strategic point of view, we may seek to negotiate a plea agreement.
Often, a key component of a fair plea agreement is the reduction of criminal charges from felonies to misdemeanors. We may also negotiate other issues such as the recommended sentence or a request for probation in lieu of a criminal sentence. For help with any felony charges or misdemeanor charges, call us at 301-464-2500 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Bowie and Crofton.
My name is Joe Carey, and I am the founder and principal attorney of the Carey Law Office. I have lived in Maryland my entire life. I grew up in a small town in Prince George’s County and, with the help of my partner in life, Nancy, I raised my family here: three exceptional children (a son and two daughters), and two goofy, spoiled black Labrador Retrievers. Learn More