From a Criminal Defense Attorney
As a criminal defense attorney my primary responsibility to make sure that each of my clients gets the best possible defense to the charges levied against them. To be sure, that does not mean they will always be found not guilty. The truth is that sometimes the people I represent are guilty, just like the charge against them claims.
I Don't’ Judge
That does not change my role as a criminal defense attorney. It is not my job to judge any person that asks for my help. It is my job to help them navigate the judicial system and make sure that every legitimate defense they have is properly presented.
What You Don’t Know
In my many years as a lawyer I have come to realize many things. One of them is that most of the people who come to me have little understanding of our criminal justice system. They may know that what they have done is against the law. They may even know what the penalty is for such conduct. But there are just some basics they fail to grasp. In this post I will try to mention a couple.
First of all there are only two real options available in most cases. One is to enter into plea negotiations. That means the client wants to see what kind of deal they can get if they plead guilty.
Pleading guilty is just that. The client has to admit that they committed the crime and accept responsibility. That means, in most cases, appearing in court and saying to the judge in public that you committed the crime. Sometimes the charges are amended. But in order to accept the plea bargain it usually requires a plea of guilty.
When your criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor negotiate a plea bargain they are both trying to get the best disposition they can for their client. The prosecutor represents the State or municipality. The criminal defense lawyer has the individual as a client.
It isn’t always possible for both sides to agree on a recommendation. That brings up option number two. A trial.
How about a Trial?
Now a trial can be a jury trial or a bench trial. A bench trial means that the judge alone acts as the judge and jury. These are much less expensive than a jury trial but I have to tell you, it is hard to get a judge to enter a not guilty verdict. The government’s case has to be really weak. I have had a judge come up to me after a trial and tell me that it was really hard from the evidence to tell what really happened. Therefore he was just going to give my client a fine and no jail time. He should have entered a finding on not guilty. Frankly his decision was just plain dumb. It showed an ignorance of the entire criminal justice system.
There will be an upcoming blog post about the dumb things judges do. Make sure you look for it.
In a jury trial 12 people have to agree on your guilt or innocence. Anything else is a hung jury and could result in a re-trial. Jury trials are more expensive because they require a lot more work.
Negotiations can go on throughout the entire process. Sometimes they result in a favorable result and there is no trial.
But keep this in mind. A criminal defense attorney cannot make the other side give you a good offer. The prosecutor can offer whatever they want. It is that simple. The only way for you to get to tell you side of the story is through a trial. The criminal defense lawyer cannot just walk on and say, “Here is what happened” and the case will be dismissed. I wish it were that simple.
Look for my next post coming soon.