If you have been charged with a criminal offense—particularly for the first time—you may be tempted to plead guilty “just to get it over with.” Let me to start with this basic premise:
That’s a bad idea.
First, the overwhelming majority of offenses carry the possibility of jail time—a fact that most good judges will heavily stress to you when you make your first appearance in court. Jailable offenses include even innocuous-sounding crimes like underage drinking or possession of false identification. You may be asking, “would a judge really put me in jail for a seemingly-minor offense?” The answer is that each case is different—a judge can certainly put an offender in jail for a seemingly-minor offense—but, most importantly, do you really want to test it and find out?
Second, consider your record and your future. Your goal is not only to remain out of jail, but also to remain employable and desirable to institutions of higher education. For any criminal conviction—brought on by your desire to save money in the short-term, or by your desire to “fall on the sword”—you will have to wait, at bare minimum, 1 year before your record will be eligible to be expunged; and your answer to the question “have you ever been convicted of a crime” has just gone from “no” to “yes.”
Third, certain categories of criminal convictions carry with them mandatory suspensions from all Ohio colleges. The court will almost never advise you of this, so you won’t find out until it’s too late.
There is a better way. Have your case reviewed by a trained professional with experience in the court where your case is being heard. Find out if there is a way to get your case dismissed, and eventually expunged, through a “Diversion” program or the like. A comparatively small effort now can save you major headaches later.