A: When you plead guilty in state court, you give up your right to appeal. In federal court, you may have the right to enter a conditional plea. In a conditional plea, you give up most appellate rights, but retain the right to appeal on particular issues, typically to appeal the denial of a motion to dismiss or a motion to suppress evidence, or to appeal the sentence.
A: Only if you have decided this is the best course of action after a full discussion with an attorney. You should insist on getting the best outcome you can get in your case, even if you are actually guilty. You are legally innocent until proven guilty, so there is no dishonesty in maintaining your innocence and making the government prove their case, even if you did 100% of what they accuse you of. If you feel bad about what you did, you can make up for it by offering restitution to the victim (but consult with an attorney first to avoid charges of witness tampering), or by doing community service or giving to charity or something. I can recommend my favorite charity if you need advice on this. But you getting a record that will follow you around for life, if you could have avoided it, does not benefit anyone except the prosecutor who gets another feather in their cap. It will actually impair your ability to be a productive and contributing member of society and make up for whatever you did.
A: The disadvantages are that you lose whatever possibility you had of winning at trial, or of negotiating a better plea, or disposing of the case some other way, such as through a motion to dismiss or a motion to suppress evidence. You will obviously have to serve whatever sentence your plea carries. In addition, if you plead guilty or are convicted at trial, you will have a record that will follow you around for a lot of different purposes—immigration, employment, housing, etc. If you take a CWOF, you will have a more limited record but it will still follow your around in some situations—immigration, security clearance, etc.
A: Probably. The judge is not allowed to punish you for exercising your right to trial, but trial can carry a few risks. First, if the prosecution offers to dismiss or reduce charges as part of a plea, and you are convicted of those charges at trial, the judge will sentence you based on the charges you are actually convicted of, and that will make the sentence worse. Second, a CWOF or other disposition short of a conviction may be available as part of a plea, but will not be if you are found guilty at trial. It is often worth discussing a pela and getting the prosecution to make an offer in writing so that if you are only convicted of the charges they would have insisted you plead guilty to, they cannot ask for a worse sentence at trial.
A: Maybe. I would never recommend entering a plea with the thought you can withdraw it later, because you can never count on that. But under some circumstances, such as your attorney failing to advise you about immigration consequences, you might be able to. IF you have already entered a plea that you want to withdraw, call us to discuss whether it is realistic in your situation.
A: It depends on what you are asking for. The judge cannot dismiss or reduce charges as part of a plea unless the prosecutor agrees, but they can give you a lower sentence than the prosecutor asks for. However, I would never count on the judge doing that.
A: No, but they almost always accept the plea, and usually accept an agreed upon sentence, as long as It meets the minimum legal requirements a plea is supposed to meet, such as the defendant having mental competence to make a plea bargain and understanding what they are pleading to. Some courts have some limits on what judges can do though. In Massachusetts district courts and Boston Municipal Court, you decide what the maximum sentence you will agree to is. Then the judge can either accept your plea, or reject it and tell you what sentence they would impose and give you an opportunity to decide whether to take that sentence or go to trial. In superior court, the judge can go higher than the sentence you propose without giving you an opportunity to reconsider, but must give you the opportunity to reconsider if they are going to give you a worse sentence than the prosecution proposes. In federal court they do not have these restrictions, but you can plead guilty and still reserve your right to appeal the sentence if you believe it is unfair.