Many people who have been arrested understandably question whether their situation is truly consequential. As a result, they question whether they really need to incur legal fees to be represented by an attorney instead of trying to represent themselves. These are not unreasonable concerns, especially because so many services sold in the U.S. economy are extraneous. Yet, for better or for worse, legal representation services for criminal law matters do not fall into this “optional” category.
The Importance Of Seeking Legal Counsel
In the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, the United States Supreme Court observed that “lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries.” This acknowledgment led the Court to hand down a decision in Gideon that confirmed the right of most criminal defendants to have legal counsel represent their interests throughout the criminal defense process. This is why, in felony cases – at an absolute minimum – courts must appoint a public defender to represent the interests of the accused if they cannot afford representation themselves.
Yet, the workload of public defenders is notoriously unreasonable. As a result, reports have repeatedly confirmed that many public defenders only have minutes – not hours, days, weeks, or months – to prepare each client’s case. Given the stakes of a criminal case, most people who can afford private representation take advantage of this privilege. Why? Presenting the strongest and most effective defense strategy possible under the circumstances often makes or breaks an individual’s case. And given the kinds of consequences that someone convicted of criminal wrongdoing may face, this is not a situation in which an individual should “roll the dice.”
Sentencing Vs. Collateral Consequences
If someone who has been accused of criminal wrongdoing pleads guilty to the charges they’re facing or is found guilty by a judge or jury, they will be sentenced in accordance with their crimes. Depending on the nature of the offense in question, the following sentencing penalties could be imposed:
- A term of incarceration in a county jail or a state or federal prison
- Fines that could range from $100 to tens of thousands of dollars
- A suspension or termination of one’s driver’s license
- Addition of points to one’s driver’s license
- The mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device in one’s vehicle
- Driver’s license restrictions
- Registration as a sex offender
- A term of probation or another form of supervised release
- Mandatory attendance at anger management or substance abuse counseling
- Residence in a substance abuse rehabilitation facility
- Community service requirements
- Payment of restitution to a victim
- A notation of the crime in question on the defendant’s criminal record
Some diversion programs may allow an individual accused of wrongdoing to avoid a conviction if they meet the terms of the program. Often, these terms consist of some of the potential sentencing penalties noted above but do not generally involve fines or incarceration.
By contrast, collateral consequences arise as incidental impacts to a criminal conviction. They are consequences of a conviction that are not handed down by a court but, instead, arise due to other social influences. Sometimes, depending on an individual’s circumstances, collateral consequences can be as life-altering – if not more so – than penalties that a judge has handed down.
What Do Collateral Consequences Look Like?
The kinds of collateral consequences that an individual may be compelled to grapple with in the event of a conviction will entirely depend upon the charges they’re facing and the nature of their personal life. For example, someone with a supportive family may find that a conviction doesn’t affect their relationships much. However, someone whose relationships aren’t well-grounded may find that they are harshly judged or even shunned by loved ones because of an unfavorable outcome to their criminal matter.
Additionally, depending on the nature of someone’s alleged crimes, they may lose their job – either because their crimes relate in some way to their occupation or because they will miss too much time away from work while they’re incarcerated.
The most “universal” consequence of a conviction tends to be either the establishment of a criminal record or – for repeat offenders – the addition of another crime onto a criminal record. Having a criminal record – or exacerbating the severity of an existing one – is a collateral consequence worth avoiding. If you are not motivated to defend against the charges you’re facing for any other reason, you will want to dig your heels in simply to avoid getting or aggravating a criminal record.
A criminal record can make it infinitely more challenging to get a job, secure housing, enter higher education programs, and secure credit. Additionally, having a criminal record can potentially be held against you if you are accused of wrongdoing in the future. Your child’s other parent may even hold it against you if child custody matters become contentious.
Connect With A Client-Focused Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer To Learn More
At George Law, we understand that the outcome of a criminal defense case can result in far more significant consequences than a fine and some community service hour requirements. We know that a conviction can affect an individual’s employment, their ability to secure safe housing, their social relationships, their ability to drive independently, and even their child custody rights. As a result of our broader focus on the needs of our clients, we aggressively advocate on behalf of their interests to a degree that is rarely pursued by most criminal defense firms.
To learn more about our team’s approach to representation and about your rights and options under the law, schedule a free case legal consultation by calling (248) 247-7459 or by submitting a contact form on our firm’s website. Alternatively, you can reach out via our firm’s website chat feature, which is available 24/7.
Because the stakes of all criminal cases are high – both in terms of potential sentencing and collateral consequences – it is vitally important to seek legal guidance as proactively as possible. The sooner we’re alerted to your circumstances, the sooner we can begin safeguarding your rights and interests. We look forward to speaking with you.