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The potential impact of a guilty plea on your career

It only takes a moment for a simple mistake to leave you facing serious criminal allegations. Anything from choosing to get behind the wheel after a business dinner with drinks to a case of mistaken identity could leave you dealing with criminal charges and the various consequences that come with them.

As a professional, you, no doubt, want to take proactive steps to mitigate the impact of these pending charges on your current and future career opportunities.

For some people, the desire to avoid conflict or a drawn-out court case could leave them to accept a plea deal even if they know they are innocent. Doing that could be a pretty serious mistake if you have ambitions for advancement in your job.

If you plead to a lesser offense, companies can assume you were guilty

Plea deals can help you avoid the worst potential penalties for a crime. Unfortunately, there is also a dark underside to a guilty plea that few people discuss. Essentially, by accepting a plea bargain, you affirm the validity of the original charges. If you accept a plea deal to a misdemeanor offense, your current employer and anyone else who performs a background check may very well assume that you were guilty of the original felony charge.

That could keep you out of some of the best jobs, cost you a promotion or even make securing an executive rental property difficult. If you currently have a good job, you might imagine that accepting a guilty plea could help you avoid missing work due to court and potentially prevent your employer from ever learning about your legal troubles. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. While a guilty plea to a lesser charge could help you avoid court, you will still have a criminal record.

Many companies routinely reevaluate their staff, particularly when considering annual pay raises or potential promotions. Just because you don't disclose your legal troubles to your employer doesn't mean they won't discover them. Your employer may take disciplinary actions, up to termination, if they discover your recent conviction.

Proving your innocence can permanently clear your name

Mounting a rigorous defense against pending criminal charges isn't easy. It will require substantial time and likely financial investment. However, making the effort to prove your innocence will offer you greater protections from future problems than accepting a plea bargain.

Even if the terms of the plea bargain allow you to avoid jail time or other serious consequences, proving your innocence in court will have far fewer long-lasting consequences for your career. If you are worried about potential criminal charges or are already facing them, it may be time to sit down with a Texas criminal defense attorney to talk about reducing the impact of the alleged offense on your career.

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