Do you really want to plead guilty?

As I sat in court a few weeks ago waiting for my case to be called, I saw something that happens in courtrooms across this state every day. A case ahead of me was a felony plea to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The factual basis for the plea indicated that the amount of marijuana was .22 grams. There was no actual sale or any other indicator that there was any intent to sell, with the exception of a statement by the arresting officer that the defendant admitted that he may give some of the marijuana to another person. In short, it appears that the defendant was entering a felony plea to what should have been, at best, a misdemeanor.

The judge spent a great deal of time going over the factual basis for the plea. At one point the judge said “are you sure you want to plead guilty to this?”, or a statement to that effect. The defendant, after consulting with his lawyer, persisted with his felony plea. The court reluctantly accepted the plea.

I don’t know if there were extenuating circumstances, but this case, on its face, was clearly something that should have been disposed of as something less than a felony. The consequences of a felony plea are devastating. A person convicted of a felony loses many rights, including the right to vote and the right to carry a firearm. Further, a felony adds serious impediments to gaining meaningful employment.

When you are faced with a charge like the one described above, it is important to consult an experience criminal defense attorney to explore all your options and fully understand the consequences of a felony conviction. And most importantly, ask yourself: Do you really want to plead guilty to drug possession with intent to distribute for having ¾ of an ounce of weed?

Peter Barrett

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