The Reality of Pleading Guilty to a Misdemeanor

Posted on Dec 13, 2013 in Local Issues, National Issues

Photo Courtesy of NOLA.gov

Photo Courtesy of NOLA.gov

Here at Bloom Legal, LLC we are frequently called upon when clients are ticketed or arrested on misdemeanor charges. Many times we are asked, “What if I just go down and defend myself?” or “Shouldn’t I just used the court appointed lawyer?” The outcome we often see is parties pleading guilty to “minor” misdemeanor crimes so they can simply pay a fine and move on. However, the repercussions of pleading guilty to even a misdemeanor can, and will likely, come back to haunt you. An estimated 65 million Americans – more than one in four – have a criminal record, according to a 2011 report by the National Employment Law Project. With a criminal record, comes an “economic death sentence,” where finding a job or an apartment, or even educational goals, suddenly become impossible tasks. The consequences of a criminal record are numerous and sometimes hard to determine or fix.

Some people will seek the assistance of the public defenders office. Often times, the public defender assigned to a case will present a plea deal, but won’t mention the consequences involved. The reality is that public defenders nationwide are often overwhelmed and underfunded, juggling dozens or hundreds of cases. Overworked counsel is the norm nationwide amongst public defender offices. In New Orleans, part-time public defenders carry the equivalent of almost 19,000 misdemeanor cases per lawyer, which translates to about seven minutes per case. The nationally recommended standard is 400 misdemeanors a year per attorney. Clearly, the public defenders are overwhelmed by their caseload.

So how can you mitigate the damages of a prior criminal record? Expungements are civil proceedings which can erase arrests or criminal charges as to public searches. Very few states nationwide provide public lawyers to aid in expunging one’s criminal record, as expungements are civil matters. Again, many people try to go it alone, spend $350 to $775 in fees, only to have their petitions refused because of errors and even the trained attorneys run into problems, sometimes just to schedule an initial hearing. While expungements are a solution to the problem of a criminal record, they are by no means full proof. Courts do keep private records, which can be accessed by certain searches and used against you in future convictions.

Bloom Legal is a private law firm that will work to get you the best results on your criminal matters. Every step of the way our lawyers will take the time to discuss the issues at hand and every possible outcome. Bloom Legal also works with clients on post conviction expungements. If you are looking for a criminal defense lawyer, call us at 504-599-9997 or email us at info@bloomlegal.com for a consultation. Need help trying to expunge your criminal record? Don’t hesitate to give us a call.

To read more about the repercussions of a criminal record and the effects of the public criminal defense system, check out this article.

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