The vast majority of people charged with criminal offenses in California will enter a guilty plea. Some research indicates that roughly 82% of those accused of a felony will plead guilty to that offense or a lesser misdemeanor instead of going to court.
The reason that plea rates are so high is that prosecutors often charge people with as many crimes as possible given the circumstances and will try to make the most serious criminal case they can. Defendants often worry about the severity of the penalties they face and will plead guilty because they think that doing so will minimize there’s something.
Just because pleading guilty has become a popular response does not make it the best choice. For those facing drug charges in California, especially those accused of distribution or trafficking offenses, pleading guilty could be a major mistake.
There is no mandatory minimum, but the sentence could still be harsh
While California has done away with mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, significant jail time and thousands of dollars in fines are still possible when someone pleads guilty.
Much will be left to the discretion of the judge unless you have a specific arrangement, possibly made in exchange for you testifying against others. Judges often like to look tough on crime, and sentencing drug offense defendants to the maximum penalty possible is one way to do so.
A drug offense will mean a major criminal record
While some elements of society have become more accepting of drug use and prior criminal offenses, many employers still have a zero-tolerance policy for serious criminal records, such as drug crimes. A drug crime could also prevent you from getting certain kinds of financial aid for higher education or might affect your ability to enroll at the college of your choice.
Many people accused of drug offenses will find that the best way to minimize the long-term consequences of such charges is to aggressively defend themselves. For those who admit they did commit a crime, seeking drug court proceedings instead of just entering a guilty plea could be a way to mitigate the lasting consequences of the charges.
Learning more about how California handles drug offenses can help those facing charges decide what to do next.