If you are facing criminal charges, an offer to reduce the charges and/or receive probation instead of jail time may seem preferable to trying to prove your innocence. Police and prosecutors can sound very persuasive about the sort of case they have against you.

However, the cost of pleading guilty may be more than you want to pay, even if you can avoid jail by doing so. Here are some things you need to consider before entering a guilty plea without adequate representation.

Deals are not always what they seem

Plea-bargain deals can be confusing. Just because prosecutors offer you some concession does not mean you will avoid prison, even if that is what they seem to be saying.

For example, you may be merely agreeing that the prosecution does not have to prove something in court that may be damaging to you, and in return you may get some promise of a concession. But by doing so, you may be conceding an element of your case that could have won it for you entirely. Remember that prosecutors have more experience than you do in trying criminal cases. If they want you to concede something, there is usually a good reason that may become evident later on.

If you have prior criminal convictions, you may also find at sentencing that you will pay a more severe penalty than expected because of mandatory sentencing laws, even if you pled guilty to what you considered a lesser charge.

There is a cost to having convictions on your record

Even if you never spend a day in prison, having to admit to a felony conviction on a job application could seriously impact your life and career. A seemingly minor offense could require you to register as a sex offender.

Even if you are initially inclined to accept a plea bargain offer rather than go through the expense and embarrassment of a trial, you should be sure to understand the costs of accepting such an offer.