If you are unfamiliar with the criminal justice process, you might not get a fair resolution with the help of a public defender. These attorneys might be competent, but it is unlikely they have the time to form a strategy based on your unique situation.

If you do not have the background to know all possible consequences and communicate your ideal realistic outcome to your attorney, you might not get the representation you deserve. The most effective legal strategy is the one that works for you personally.

There are both subtle and obvious consequences of criminal convictions. Please familiarize yourself with them before you make decisions.

No recourse

Consequences are often permanent or persistent. One of the biggest myths about criminal law is that you automatically get a second chance if the case does not end the way you want.

Yes, there is an appeals process. There are post-conviction relief options for certain cases. However, the majority of these options require you to meet specific criteria. Otherwise, you might have no recourse but to wait — sometimes for many years.

Limited freedom

You could obviously face jail time for certain convictions, such as major drug crimes. However, there are subtler ways that a conviction could restrict your freedom.

Did you know that several countries deny visa-free entry, and often visas, to people with a criminal record? If you want to take that trip to Tokyo in the foreseeable future, you probably need an aggressive, focused defense.

Damaging evidence

Anything you say or do could inform the prosecution’s case against you. However, the case itself could also become evidence in other legal actions. People routinely use criminal records to lend credibility to or provide a basis for their arguments in divorce, child custody and other types of civil cases.

It makes sense to approach criminal accusations in a personal way, if only for the complexity — and sheer number — of possible consequences of convictions.

The best possible outcome for you might require something above and beyond the standard approach. Please start as soon as possible so you have time to assess all of your options.