Many people mistakenly believe that racking up a misdemeanor conviction is not that big of a deal, especially if they never had to serve any time. They may eagerly jump at the plea bargains offered by the prosecution and plead guilty without ever really considering all the repercussions of their decisions.

Don’t be that guy — or gal. It’s one thing to make a measured decision to cop a plea when that is the best possible outcome you can face. It’s quite another to plead guilty to something you didn’t do, close the books on a winnable case and deal with the fallout of that poor decision for a lifetime.

An unfortunate case

One man in another state learned the hard way how many doors to opportunities will slam shut after accepting a misdemeanor plea bargain to a felony charge. The man, who was 31 at the time he was arrested for felony possession of MDMA, eventually copped a misdemeanor plea to the charge. He thought he got off easy because his deal included no jail time. But that was before his hopes of joining the National Guard were permanently dashed.

Although he had a Bachelor’s degree with some credits toward his Master’s, he also was unable to get a good job in his field. Despite the years of education and the money spent matriculating at institutions of higher learning, he works as a personal trainer and dog walker. He commented, “My life is stuck in a standstill.”

So, are all plea bargains bad news?

No, certainly not. The sheer weight of the criminal caseload would crush the judicial system if each and every charge was adjudicated in court. Plea bargains serve a useful purpose and have a valid role in the legal arena. The trick is to use plea bargains to your advantage — and not the prosecution’s.

Prosecutors score wins with plea bargains just as they do with courtroom convictions, and of course, they have to work much harder to earn those convictions than they do with the pleas they dangle at desperate defendants.

You should also know that it is the cases where the prosecutors have the least evidence and lowest likelihood of convictions for which they push the hardest for plea bargains. That’s why you should work closely with your Lynchburg criminal defense attorney. They can evaluate the merits of your case and help you devise a defense strategy, which may or may not include accepting a plea bargain.