Criminal law is divided into two major categories of offenses; misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are less serious offenses such as a minor in possession of alcohol, simple assault and trespassing. However, depending on the nature of the misdemeanor charge, it may carry serious permanent consequences. Shoplifting, for example, is usually a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude and a record of conviction may affect your ability to get employment.
Felonies are much more serious offenses and conviction carries a substantial risk of imprisonment, fines or both. For foreign nationals, whether here legally or not, deportation is an additional risk.
Regardless of the charge, it is crucial that you make an informed choice as to how to plead. Pleading guilty is seldom a wise course of action. Going to court without a lawyer is even less desirable. Probation or deferred adjudication may be available depending on the charges. Deferred adjudication is often the best way to resolve the charges although an outright dismissal is the optimum result. It seldom occurs that the State declines to proceed with the case.
A deferred adjudication involves the entry of a plea of no contest or guilty. However, the judge does not find the defendant guilty but defers making a finding of guilt. The period of deferred adjudication varies from a few months to a few years depending on the charges. As long as the defendant pays the court costs, fines if any, and is not charged with any other criminal offense, the charges are dismissed at the end of the deferred adjudication period.
In that event, you may be eligible to file a petition for either nondisclosure or expunction.
A nondisclosure effectively removes your record of arrest from public access. It would still be available to law enforcement agencies. An expunction completely removes all documentation from all government agencies. The court will order that all records regarding the arrest or charges be destroyed and not even law enforcement agencies would have access.
Today more than ever, information regarding criminal records is vital for many reasons. Prospective employers are concerned about their potential liability if they hire an employee who has a criminal record. Background checks are routinely used to evaluate applicants for employment, credit, passports and many other reasons. Past criminal problems need not haunt you in the future if you are eligible for one of these remedies.
Call today to see if you qualify.
If you are charged with a crime, you have a right to counsel under the Constitution. That right is triggered the moment you are arrested. Do not try to explain anything to the arresting officers. You have the most valuable right of all--the right to remain silent. Exercise it!
Call our offices today to schedule an appointment and get local representation.