A criminal record is the last thing that a college student needs to think about. Yet that’s the predicament facing one 21-year-old junior at James Madison University. The student, a computer science major, allegedly built a software program capable of stealing passwords. The student sold the software to over 3,000 users, which resulted in about 16,000 reported computer infections.
The student recently plead guilty to criminal charges in federal court to malware charges. The student is now facing up to 10 years in prison. This raises the question: why would a defendant plead guilty or accept a plea deal?
In some cases, it may be in a defendant’s best interests to accept a plea deal. A plea works as an agreement between the prosecution and the accused. In exchange for pleading guilty to at least one of the charges, the defendant may receive either a more lenient sentence, or perhaps the reduction or dismissal of certain charges.
If there is a substantial risk of the prosecution meeting its burden of proof, a defendant may not want to gamble with the outcome of a criminal trial. At the same time, accepting a plea deal essentially forecloses the opportunity to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and arguments. Our attorneys can help you carefully consider this option.
Our Virginia law firm has represented many clients, both in federal and state court. We understand that an individual’s future is on the line when defending against criminal charges. That’s why our attorneys investigate every possible defense angle. From the arrest procedures up to the evidence that the prosecution may produce at trial, we look for any signs of procedural misconduct by police or prosecutors.
Source: The Washington Post, “Virginia college student pleads guilty to federal computer malware charges,” Joe Heim, Jan. 13, 2017