The final part of the criminal case has come and it is now time to plead guilty. There are a lot of things that can be discussed when it comes to pleading guilty. First off, if you have not talked to an attorney before pleading guilty I highly highly recommend you contact our law firm and talk to an attorney before pleading guilty to a crime. Even if it is a misdemeanor. Even if you know that you are guilty. Pleading guilty before talking to an attorney can lead to big problems in the future.
There may be consequences that the person was not aware of, such as gun rights, immigration rights, the ability to testify in the future, enhanceable crimes, employment, the ability to find housing. The list can go on and on. Utah is a problem state right now where there are too many individuals that plead guilty without first consulting a criminal defense attorney.
Many individuals should probably have a public defender by their side but the state of Utah is struggling right now with why they should give criminals attorneys. Right now, some serious lawsuits have been filed against the state as a result of this and hopefully that gets worked out later down the road.
Talk to an attorney before pleading guilty
However, right now, if you don't have an attorney and you are about to plead guilty to a crime, I recommend once again, sitting down with our law firm and talking to us before you plead guilty. Many individuals may regret pleading guilty down the road. The thing is, the evidence may be stacked against you but there are other things that need to be taken into consideration, such as whether or not the government lawfully seized that evidence, and your background and criminal history as well as other mitigating factors.
There are many things that can lead to a better deal before pleading to a deal offered by the prosecutor. Prosecutors hand out a little thing called a "Plea-in-abeyance" like candy here in Utah. Once again, I would recommend talking to an attorney before entering one of those. They may sound good but they have many thorns attached to them and it is best to talk to an attorney to determine whether or not that really is your best option before entering such a deal.
The problem with pleading guilty, and when you plead guilty, that means your are pleading to a crime most likely from a plea-deal without going to trial, is that you are waiving a lot of rights. Sadly, in Utah, many people waive their right to counsel the first day in court. Other rights include the right to a jury trial by your peers, a right to cross examine those that would testify against you and a right to an appeal.
When an individual pleads guilty to the crimes, all of those rights are waived. That person is left to the mercy of the judge at that time and how the judge will decide to sentence that individual. One's liberty, which is in my opinion, the most precious thing that man owns. When the government had the ability to take one's liberty or even fine them and take their property, I would want to make sure that an attorney was on my side and make sure that the government is not pulling the wool over my eyes.
Knowingly and Voluntary Plea-Deal
When a person pleads guilty, the judge will ask them if they entered the plea-deal knowingly and voluntarily. The judge will ask them if anyone has threatened them to enter a plea deal and if they understand the rights that they are waiving the pleading guilty. At this time, when an individual does this, they are at the mercy of the judge with the ability to impose the maximum penalty of that crime.
Many individuals enter plea-deals because they are promised by the state that they will get a lessor sentence if they plead guilty. Again, it may sound like a good deal and the prosecutor may say that it sounds like a good deal, but it is a good idea to get a hold of an attorney to get a second opinion. Finally the judge will ask the individual if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol when entering the plea.
Withdraw of a Guilty Plea
So, when it comes to appeals and plea-deals, the only way that someone can get out of a plea deal is to file a motion to withdraw their guilty plea within 30 days of entering the plea. Again, it would be a fine idea to get an attorney on board to help with this issue as well as it is more complicated than it sounds. It's one thing to file the motion, it is another thing to convince the judge that the motion should be granted. A person can't just withdraw their guilty plea because they changed their mind.
There has to be something greater out there that affected them from entering the plea-deal. If however, the judge denies the motion for withdrawal of a guilty plea, that is an appealable issue that can be brought before the Utah Court of Appeals. If a person does not file the motion to withdraw their guilty plea and appeals, the court of appeals will not look at the case and claim that they waived their right to appeal.