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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27460
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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My name is ***** ***** and I am facing misdemeanor charge

Customer Question

Customer: My name is ***** ***** and I am facing misdemeanor charge for conversion
JA: Thanks. Can you give me any more details about your issue?
Customer: Well I am a college student and had a stolen parking pass. I plan on pleading guilty but I don't know if I still need a lawyer or should just use a public defender
JA: OK got it. Last thing — JustAnswer charges a fee (generally around $18) to post your type of question to Criminal Law Experts (you only pay if satisfied). There are a couple customers ahead of you. Are you willing to wait a bit?
Customer: Yes
JA: OK. Now I'm going to take you to a page to place a secure deposit with JustAnswer. Don't worry, this chat is saved. After that, we will finish helping you.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.


Thank you for requesting me. A public defender is a full-fledged lawyer. Public defenders go to the same universities and law schools, take the same classes, earn the same degrees and pass the same bar exams as members of the private bar. The only difference is that they want to be a criminal trial attorney rather than practice other forms of law and they want to do it to benefit the public rather than for a for-profit firm

As in every law firms, some public defenders are exceptional lawyers. Others are terrible. Most are at least capable. All, however, are experienced trial attorneys and will know how to defend a misdemeanor. So, if you can't afford a lawyer and you like your public defender and feel that he or she is on top of your case, then you've got one of the good ones, and you might as well not change. If, however, you don't like your lawyer and can afford private counsel, hiring one may be a good idea. Alternatively, if you don't like the way your lawyer is handling the case but you can't afford a private attorney, you can let the judge know that you don't think your public defender is acting in your best interest and ask him to appoint you a new one. Generally, at the beginning of a case a judge will be willing to grant one change of assigned counsel if there's a bad fit between a public defender and his client.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
okay, I can afford a lawyer I just didn't know if it made a difference if I had one or not if I was pleading guilty. I am from Indiana, and a student had this same case and she pleaded guilty and was able to get it expunged by some program. Is there anything that I need to do to get that done or is that up to the judge?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.

Theoretically, if you can afford a lawyer, you are not eligible for a public defender. So you should hire a lawyer and have him with you on your court date. It sounds as if your friend was given a deferred adjudication program. That's where you plead guilty, pay some fines, do some cgrommunity service, and stay out of trouble with the law during a period of supervision. Do all of that successfully and the case gets dimissed so that you don't carry around a conviction on your record.

A program like that may be available for a first arrestee on a relatively low level, non-violent crime. You can only get it from the prosecutor, because he controls who gets offered a chance at this and who doesn't

So, go into court with a lawyer and plead not guilty. Then your lawyer can work out a deal for you -- hopefully the one you want. Once that's done you can take back your not guilty plea and enter a plea of guilty to get the promised deferral from the DA.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Okay thank you. Well, doesn't it look bad on me if I plea not guilty and then take it back and say I am guilty, won't I look like a liar?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.

Sorry for the delay. I had to finish with another customer.

No it doesn't make you look bad. In this country, all criminal defendants are considered innocent under the law until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A plea of not guilty is the only plea that keeps all of your rights open so that you can negotiate a plea offer or, if you'd rather, move your case towards an eventual trial. Any other plea results in a conviction. It is therefore customary for a defendant to plea not guilty when first arraigned. That's the only way he can control the course of his case.

If you go in and just plead guilty, without having worked out any offer, you've given yourself a criminal conviction and you cannot negotiate anything further. You don't plead guilty until you've worked out your deal and know what you'll be getting as a sentence in exchange for your plea. Until then, the law considers you not guilty, and that's just what you're supposed to plead.