LETTER: Don’t plead guilty

Every day in court, I see college students plead guilty to relatively minor crimes — trespass, public intoxication, urinating in public, possession of marijuana, shoplifting, writing a bad check, obstruction of justice, simple assault, etc. Oftentimes, students who plead guilty to charges like these do not realize that misdemeanor convictions come with a high price tag, particularly for students who receive loans or who plan to pursue professional careers after graduating.

A single misdemeanor conviction can negate loan eligibility for students who depend on government-subsidized loans. A misdemeanor conviction can lead to revocation of student visa status and deportation for international students. Similarly, students interested in studying abroad could be denied that opportunity as the result of a misdemeanor conviction because some countries restrict or deny entry of persons with criminal records.

Additionally, a misdemeanor conviction could disqualify a candidate from becoming a Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, or Certified Nurse Aid. If the misdemeanor involves moral turpitude (like shoplifting or writing a bad check) or acts of violence (such as simple assault), it can preclude you from working in a nursing facility, home care organization or assisted living facility. Banks, insurance companies, and other bonded and trust positions also opt out of hiring people with misdemeanor convictions. The armed services turn down candidates with prior misdemeanors. To wit, even for employers that do not outright disqualify candidates with misdemeanor convictions, that conviction is a scarlet letter that cuts against your employee competitiveness.

The judge will not admonish you as to how pleading guilty to a misdemeanor could forfeit your student loans, prevent you from studying abroad or crush your career goals. But I am telling you now: If you get charged with a crime — however minor — get an attorney and fight to have the misdemeanor dismissed. Most students are eligible for public defenders, and you always have the option of hiring an attorney of your own. If you find an attorney who encourages you to plead guilty and does not advise you that a misdemeanor conviction could ruin your life, find and hire a different attorney. As a student, you should make it your duty to avoid convictions at all costs. Once that conviction is on your record, it is there forever.

As a young attorney and a recent law school graduate, and I can attest to the difficulties students face when they accept misdemeanor guilty pleas. Even one misdemeanor conviction will have very serious implications that are counterproductive to all of the work you are doing as a college student.

Do not put your future at risk. Plead not guilty, and fight for a dismissal.

Courtney Winston
CLAS ‘09

Published September 3, 2014 in Letters to the Editor, Letters

  • Sabrina No Source said:

    Jackie lied about the rape to make Randall jealous. Why are editors of the student newspaper at Jefferson's university so afraid of the truth?
    on Students produce video thanking Jackie

  • James Roberts said:

    Falsely accusing others of assault is a crime. The fallout from this is going to keep raining down on Jackie and UVa for years. Cavalier Daily has not ...
    on Students produce video thanking Jackie

  • Carrie Clarke said:

    Publishing this in the school newspaper is extremely callous and insulting to all of the other UVa students and faculty (Dean Eramo) who have been harmed ...
    on Students produce video thanking Jackie

  • HallieJane said:

    Dear Cavalier Daily: Where on God's green earth have you been. No one was in a better position to discover Jackie was lying - Was there a party that ...
    on Students produce video thanking Jackie

  • CrazyD said:

    The Washington Post has a bombshell today where it was revealed that Jackie made up the UVA Junior in order to get "Randall" jealous and interested in ...
    on Students produce video thanking Jackie

The Cavalier Daily welcomes thoughtful, respectful and relevant comments that contribute to a public dialogue. In order to maintain a high level of discourse, all comments must be approved by our moderator. For more information, view our full comment policy.

Comments powered by Disqus

Powered by powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News