Often times criminal defendants and their attorneys think that court supervision is the best solution for a client and should always be taken if offered by the prosecution. In most cases, supervision is a very good disposition of the case. It does not involve any jail time. It is non-reporting, so you don’t have to report to a probation officer. Often times it is expungeable from a criminal defendant’s permanent record, so future employers will not have access to the plea.
However, it is still a guilty plea and can have severe direct and collateral consequences. For instance, in Illinois, if you receive supervision on a DUI, it is your one and only bite at the apple. If you ever get another DUI in the future, even if it is 50 years later, you are subject to a mandatory driver’s license revocation. So it is always preferable to beat the case at trial if possible, even if the State is dangling the carrot of court supervision before you.
Another consequence of court supervision is possible deportation. While the court and the prosecutor may not consider the charged offense a serious offense, federal immigration law may. So a person who is a legal resident or an illegal immigrant may face deportation even if they receive supervision on certain offenses. This can result in terrible situations for people. I have seen legal residents who have been in this country since they were children sent back to their country of origin because of guilty pleas!!
Also, while the state of Illinois may view court supervision as a slap on the wrist, the Federal government does not. When a person pleads guilty or is found guilty of a federal offense, the court uses the Federal Sentencing Guidelines as a guide to sentence the defendant. These guidelines take into account the defendant’s criminal history, and supervision counts! Thus, a defendant could end up with a longer sentence on a Federal drug charge because they decided to plead guilty in state court on what they considered a minor charge, such as simple battery or driving on a suspended license.
Another misconception out there is that all supervision cases are expunged. That is not the case. Certain offenses are ELIGIBLE for expungement, however the criminal defendant must actually petition the court for expungement. And there are many offenses that cannot be expunged, regardless of whether a defendant received supervision. Some examples are DUI, Domestic Battery and Reckless Driving.