General Law

Warnings About Plea Agreements

When accepting a plea agreement from the state, every criminal defendant needs to consider the future ramifications of the offer on their record.

For example, many defendants may accept time served in jail as a punishment for misdemeanors like theft or assault. This offer initially sounds like a good one–the defendant has already served the jail time and will be released without further punishment.

However, taking this offer will result in a final conviction that can never be erased from the defendant’s criminal record. So every time that person applies for a job or for credit or to live in an apartment building, the conviction will come up in a background check.

Another example: the standard plea offer for a first time DWI in most Texas counties is probation. However, if a first time offender takes the case to trial and loses, the judge will most likely give probation as the punishment. Therefore, there is no reason to accept the plea offer of probation. There is nothing to lose by taking the case to trial. Probation results in a final conviction that can never be expunged. The first time DWI offender should almost always set the case for trial and go for the not guilty verdict.


Employment & Background Checks

Since 9-11, employers are performing more and more background checks and a conviction can easily prevent a person from getting a job that they are qualified for.

So what seems like a good offer initially might not be in the future. People accused of crimes should make sure that their lawyer explains the ramifications of a plea punishment on their criminal record. And remember, that even with deferred adjudication, some types are not eligible to be sealed.

For example, many people accept Deferred Adjudication for Assault. However, if the assault involves any type of family violence (which includes “dating violence”), the offense can never be sealed.

Ultimately, a defendant’s best choice is often to fight the charges and go for the not guilty verdict.

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