There's an old saying in criminal justice: “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” While it's certainly true that a criminal conviction can come at the high price of your freedom, imprisonment is far from the only cost that you can expect to pay if you are convicted of a crime.

Many people facing criminal charges are unaware of the stakes involved in their criminal case. It's not just a chance to defend against an accusation that you broke the law. A criminal prosecution is also about avoiding throwing away thousands of dollars in costs imposed after a conviction. Having an experienced attorney by your side can be vital to not only keeping you out of jail, but also to preventing you from having to pay a heavy financial price for a crime.

The “Hidden” Costs of a Conviction

Suppose you are in a bar one night and you get into an argument with another patron. A fight breaks out, and you knock out one of his teeth with a punch. The bar’s owner calls the police, and you are arrested and charged with misdemeanor simple battery under California Penal Code Section 242.

You decide not to hire a lawyer, believing that on your own, you could make the case to the court that you were only defending yourself. The jury decides that you committed the offense and finds you guilty. The court sentences you to 60 days in jail, a $2,000 fine, three years' probation and an order that you repay financial “restitution” to the person you punched.

Probation is not free. Though you may not have to pay for supervision while on informal probation, you may be ordered to give the court “progress reports,” where you will have to appear before the court to show that you have kept up with the terms of your probation. To do this, you may have to miss work, which could reduce the amount you make on your paycheck or waste valuable vacation hours.

As part of your probation conditions, you may be ordered to pay restitution to the victim. In this case, you knocked out one of the victim’s teeth, which means that you may have to pay for his dental bills and any wages that he lost as a result of the injury you inflicted. Depending on his lost income, you may be facing a restitution bill of $5,000 dollars or more.

Because your conviction was the result of a bar fight, you might also be ordered to attend anger management classes. If that is the case, you'll also be looking at registration and attendance costs for taking the courses. Those costs vary depending on the number of hours that you are required to attend.

Another major likely financial impact of a criminal conviction is how it will affect your future employment opportunities. In 2017, employers have many qualified applicants for jobs. Most employers will likely select qualified applicants over you due to your criminal conviction.

The Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

As you can see, if you or a loved one are facing a criminal charge, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you not only avoid a jail term, but also avoid the financial difficulties that come with a criminal conviction.