Being convicted of a criminal offence can have a long-term impact on your life.
Not only will you have to face penalties for your offence, which can include fines or imprisonment, but you will also be left with a lifelong criminal record.
This can have consequences for you long after you have served out the terms of your sentence.
A criminal record can make it difficult for you to work in certain occupations, including as a security guard, or with children.
If you want to travel, some countries will reject visa applicants on the basis of prior criminal convictions.
Even a conviction for a relatively minor offence such as drug possession or common assault can affect you in the future, which is why it is essential to get an experienced criminal defence lawyer if you are facing criminal charges, however trivial they may seem.
If you can get the charges dismissed, your criminal record will remain clean and you will not have a conviction recorded against you.
There are a couple of ways you may be able to avoid a criminal conviction, even if you plead guilty to charges.
Section 10 dismissal
One of the most common ways that defendants are able to avoid a criminal conviction is by applying for and receiving a Section 10 dismissal from a magistrate.
Section 10 dismissals are generally easier to obtain for less severe charges, but a good defence lawyer may be able to help you receive a Section 10 for a more serious offence in certain circumstances.
To get a Section 10 dismissal you will need to plead guilty to the charges against you.
The magistrate then agrees to record a finding of guilt with no criminal conviction, which means that a conviction won’t be recorded against you and you won’t be penalised further for the offence.
Speak to a criminal lawyer to find out your chances of obtaining a Section 10.
Some of the factors that may help your case include extenuating circumstances, having no history of previous offences, and proving that you are of good character.
Applying to have charges withdrawn
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, in some circumstances, you may be able to apply to have the charges withdrawn before the matter goes before a magistrate.
This can happen in situations where police have acted inappropriately, the evidence against you has been illegally obtained, or in cases where the charges are considered trivial.
If the charges are withdrawn or ‘dropped’ you will not receive a criminal record, or have to face legal proceedings for those particular charges.
There are very specific rules regarding when and how criminal charges can be withdrawn.
For some matters, you can apply in writing to the police commissioner of the state in which you live, other matters will require a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
If you believe you may have a valid reason to request charges against you to be withdrawn, it is a good idea to speak to a criminal lawyer.
Your lawyer can apply on your behalf to request charges be withdrawn if they believe that you have reasonable grounds to do so.
If you are facing a criminal charge of any nature, it is important to take measures to reduce the severity of the consequences.
An experienced criminal lawyer can help you have the charges withdrawn or apply for a Section 10 on your behalf.
If the prosecution goes ahead with a conviction, you may be able to benefit from a less harsh penalty if you have good legal advice and a strong defence.