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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 23568
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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My son has been charged with disturbing the peace,remaining

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My son has been charged with disturbing the peace,remaining after forbidden,and resisting arrest in Louisiana. These charges are accurate and he expects to plead guilty at his arraignment. He is 22 years old and no violence was committed and this is his first offense of any type. My question is. What is the best approach he can use to reduce the severity of his punishment?
Hello,

Your son needs to understand his rights. Whether he is guilty of this offense of not, no defendant walks into his arraignment and just pleads guilty. By both custom and right, all defendants plead not guilty originally.

This is because in this country our law deems you innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And we also have a 5th Amendment right that says we never have to incriminate ourselves in court.

A plea of not guilty is the only plea that keeps all of a defendant's rights open so that he can fight his case or negotiate a disposition with the prosecutor. Any other plea closes doors and results in a criminal conviction which can get in his way for the rest of his life.

After you plead not guilty, you can always change your mind and plead guilty once you've worked out the deal you want to get. BUT if you plead guilty in the first place, you are locked into the consequences that the court gives you, and you can almost never change your mind if you don't like the news.

So he should not admit his guilt and take a plea until he knows in advance exactly what the prosecutor and judge will want him to have as a sentence.

If this is his first offense, since these charges are all non-violent misdmeanors, he should be eligible for a deferred disposition of some sort. That's a special form of community supervision/probation which consists of fines, community service, classes or counseling, as well as supervision. At the end of the supervisory period, if he has completed all of his requirements successfully, the charges against him will be dismissed, so that he will end up with no criminal conviction. Short of an outright dismissal -- which usually is not in the cards and doesn't seem like it would be here either -- it's the best possible disposition he could get because he'll have no conviction on his record.

Obtaining this is not an 'automatic." Even though he's eligible, the prosecution has discretion as to who they wish to offer it to. It all depends upon the facts and circumstances of a particular case and may have to be negotiated for him. But it would be a very reasonable disposition for an offense like this.

He also ought to have a lawyer if he can afford one, as some DAs will not negotiate with unrepresented defendants. If he can afford one, he should have him with him at his arraignment. If he is indigent and cannot afford a lawyer, after he pleads Not Guilty, he can tell the judge he cannot afford a lawyer and ask the court to appoint him a public defender. The PD will be able to negotiate a disposition for him, and it will usually be a more favorable one than anything he can get for himself.

Good luck to your son.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

This was very enlightening I didn't have a clue. My son and our family are not exactly indigent but I'm not sure we can afford lawyers either. My son managed to put up a 2000$ cash bond. (unfortunately a lot of money to us). which will not be released until any disposition is completed. So it comes down to concerns over money or his record. How damaging to ones future prospects could three misdemeanors be? As short sighted an initially worried about money and fines as I am, what (usually) qualifies him financially for a public defender? We will definitely get a lawyer now. Thank you for your very helpful information.

Hi,

A misdeanor conviction can stay on his record for the rest of his life. With a misdemeanor, the military won't take you, if he ever had leanings in that direction. Landlords do not have to rent to you -- they do background checks. Employers will take the misdemeanors into consideration and they can stand in the way of a good job. The job market is tight. Someone without a record is going to be a more desirable candidate than someone with them.

Basically, a criminal record can subject someone to a lot of discrimination. And because criminal offenders are not a Constitutionally protected class, it can do some harm.

He might be able to get his Louisiana misdemeanor expunged later on. But expungements are discretionary, meaning the court does not have to grant an applicant's petition. So if he can get the matter dismissed in the first place, that's a better option.

Every jurisdiction defines eligibility for a public defender differently. His best bet would be to call the public defender's office and let them tell him whether or not he'd be financially eligible. As a general rule, someone with a decent job, assets (home/car) credit cards would not be eligible. But they can give more precise guidelines.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I would just like to inform you from experience.I am a retired A.F Msgt there are many people with criminal records who have served in the military my self included. Military service was once an option for young people who were in trouble with the law. The military is basically a criminal operation under the guise of legitimacy and killing people is all it was about. I would not feed this beast with my children. This was just FYI I appreciate your help and I will stop here and give you an excellent rating..

Hi Jay,

Thank you. In my experiece, that's variable. When the military needs men, it will take people with misdemeanors. When it doesn't, it gets more restrictive. That may even be regional as well, I suppose. I have had plenty of clients who were hoping to get misdemeanors reduced or dismssed because their recruiter told them they wouldn't qualify. On the other hand, I had one who was able to take a felony and still be part of Operation Desert Storm.

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