A criminal record can have a lifelong impact that continues long after you serve your sentence. While serving your sentence can cause you to miss time with your family and forever change your closest relationships, having a criminal record can affect your ability to get a job, go to school, or even rent or buy a home.
If you are arrested, here are some of the ways your criminal defense attorney may be able to help you avoid a criminal record.
A diversion effectively puts a case on hold for one year or another specified amount of time. During that time, you must complete all of the prosecutor’s conditions. Those conditions typically include treatment or counseling and making restitution by reimbursing victims or performing community service. Once you complete all of the requirements by the end of the diversion period, pay all fines and court costs, and avoid more arrests, the case is dismissed without you having a criminal record established.
With diversion, it is important that you are extremely confident in your ability to complete the requirements of the agreement and stay out of trouble, because you’re required to plead guilty to the crime. Since you have pled guilty to the crime, you could face a harsher sentence if you do not complete the diversion program.
Alternative sentencing not only allows a criminal defendant to avoid serving jail time, but in some cases, it may also allow you to avoid a criminal record. Alternative sentencing typically requires a defendant to plead guilty to the crime. The prosecutor, defense attorney, and the court then agree on a sentence that does not involve jail. It may instead include house arrest, work release, or community service, for example.
It is important to note that not all alternate sentences result in avoiding a criminal record, but your attorney may be able to negotiate on your behalf.
In this type of program, the defendant agrees to reimburse the victims for any harm the crime caused, in exchange for a dismissal of the charges. Typically, a victim compromise program only applies in certain nonviolent misdemeanor cases. A judge must approve your participation in this program. Therefore, if you are a repeat offender, you may not be eligible for a victim compromise program.
The prosecutor must agree to any of these solutions, and it may need court approval. Plus, these options are not available to every criminal defendant. Usually, first-time offenders who can show the prosecutor and the judge that there is a good reason that they are deserving of mercy, or that there is a strong likelihood that they will not commit a crime again, have the best chances of avoiding a criminal record after an arrest.
Your chances of participating in a program like those above will also increase with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorneys know how these programs work, and they are experienced negotiators. Before simply pleading guilty to try and “move on” from your case, think about the long-term ramifications of having a record and discuss your options with an attorney.
An arrest and conviction can change everything. Fines or time in jail are the immediate concern, but a conviction will also mean a criminal record that can make it harder to find a job and housing for years to come. If you are arrested or learn you are under investigation, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights, lay out your options, and help you determine the best way to proceed with mounting a defense and limiting potential penalties.