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My lawyer can get me probation for my felony arrest. That's a good deal, right?

Answer: Not necessarily. Prosecutors sometimes dangle a sentence of probation in exchange for a guilty plea. Sometimes, it's a fair deal. But before you run into court and grab probation to avoid jail time, have you considered all the collateral consequences that a convicted felon faces? A federal judge recently wrote that the effects of living as a convicted felon "can be devestating" and amounts "to a form of civil death".  

As a convicted felon, you lose many of the rights that we as Americans take for granted. As a convicted felon, you may be stopped and searched by the police for any reason. You can be sent to jail for the most minor of infractions, like failing to meet with your probation officer. Many jobs will now be off limits to you, if you can even find an employer willing to hire you. You can be rejected from renting an apartment. You will lose welfare benefits, social security benefits, the ability to apply for student loans, licenses for certain jobs, food stamps, jury service and gun ownership. A felony conviction on your record will affect virtually every aspect of your life.  

There's a reason for the proposal to "ban the box" on job applications

This is why President Obama advocates that employers "ban the box", that is, not ask potential employees about their criminal history in the job application process.  So before you take that deal, make sure an experienced criminal defense lawyer has reviewed all the consequences with you of pleading guilty to a crime, especially a felony. And consider that perhaps a plea offer of probation is being made by the State because the case against you is not that strong.  

Don't count on the Florida clemency review program to clear your record

Most people may be aware that convicted felons can restore their rights through a Governor's pardon or one of the state's clemency review options. While there are various options for restoring certain rights following a felony plea agreement, the process is complicated, lengthy and very expensive.

Barring an outright pardon, the most wide-sweeping program for restoring rights is the "Restoration Of Civil Rights In Florida" program, which can only be accessed following successfully serving the sentence. This program offers the option for restoring all legal and civil rights with the exception of owning a firearm. Even with other civil rights restored, however, individuals required to register as part of their sentence, e.g. sex offenders, are not relieved of their legal requirement.

Don't panic

While the prosecutor may sound like the agreement the DA is offering is the "best deal you can get," it may not be. It makes sense to hire an experienced Florida felony defense lawyer to review the evidence and aggressively work toward helping you get the best possible outcome, which is a reduction of felony charges to a misdemeanor in many cases.

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