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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:35 pm
If you plead guilty to a crime, or are found guilty by the court, the result is a conviction. In other words, you've been found guilty of the criminal charge leveled against you. When you're charged with a crime, you're given the opportunity to enter a plea of 'guilty' or 'not guilty.' By pleading guilty, you're giving up your right to a trial by jury for this charge. If you plead guilty and the judge accepts your plea, you're convicted of the crime you're charged with, and the judge will proceed to sentence you. The conviction will become part of your criminal record. If you enter a plea of 'not guilty,' the prosecutor must first prove to the jury beyond reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. If the jury finds you guilty as charged, you're convicted of the crime and the judge will sentence you. In cases of capital offenses, the jury decides on the sentence. The conviction will become part of your criminal record. In some states, you can file to have your criminal record expunged. This is generally not possible in the case of a felony conviction, but a misdemeanor or a crime committed by a juvenile may be expunged under certain circumstances. Your criminal record will generally still be available to law enforcement and other officials, and may be used against you if you're convicted of another crime in the future, but the conviction can be removed from your record for purposes such as applying for a job or applying for a professional license. The precise rules about cleaning up a criminal record differ among states. For more information about convictions or cleaning up a criminal record, contact an attorney.

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