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Pleading guilty to a drug offense could change your future

You have plans, including growing your career and moving up in the world. Then, you get charged with a drug offense. Maybe you had prescription pills in your possession that you weren't supposed to, or maybe you've been charged with possession of marijuana. You may think these offenses are relatively minor and not something to worry about.

In fact, when you think about the hassle and time involved in going to court to fight these charges, you feel like pleading guilty is a better choice. After all, if you plead guilty, the courts may be more lenient on you when it comes to sentencing, you think. In reality, a guilty plea saddles you with a criminal record. Unless you have a written agreement that includes reduced penalties or charges for a guilty plea, failing to defend yourself could prove to be a major mistake.

Criminal records keep you out of school and jobs

Were you planning on going back to college, maybe graduate school? If you were hoping for any kind of federal funding, you can kiss it goodbye if you plead guilty to or get convicted of a drug offense. Do you rent your home? You could find renewing your lease or finding a new place to live difficult once you have a criminal record.

Job seeking can also be directly impacted by a criminal record involving drug use. Employers are likely to view those convicted of drug crimes as a potential liability. Even if you have no other criminal record, some of the best jobs out there could no longer be an option once you have a criminal record.

Expungements are possible, but they take a while

An expungement is the removal of criminal marks from your record. In some cases, you can have proceedings that got dismissed or resulted in a not guilty verdict expunged. Most felony crimes, as well as some misdemeanor crimes with a guilty plea or a conviction may be eligible for expungement.

Expungements can't occur until you've completed your sentence. After that point, you can seek expungement. The courts will carefully look at your petition to decide if granting your expungement is wise. Even after that, there can be a waiting period of up to two months before the records get corrected. Even with an expungement, private background check companies could still retain records of your plea, charges or conviction.

Defending yourself is usually the best choice

There are many factors that play into a successful defense. Were your civil rights violated during the search or arrest? Is there physical evidence or just hearsay testimony? Although going through court sounds intimidating, doing so is usually the best way to limit or reduce the impact of drug charges on your life and your future.

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