Pushing back against criminal allegations can seem like a lot of work that might not pay off against a government that often seems to get its way. There are, however, several reasons why a criminal defense attorney will tell you to not just plead guilty.
Wins Usually Come Early
If there are holes in a case, you'll typically have a chance to expose them early. There will be an arraignment hearing where the state has to present the charges and justify them. A criminal defense lawyer will usually take this opportunity to raise questions about how solid the case is.
For example, if there was an arrest at the beginning of the process, an attorney will want to know more about it. They have the right to call the arresting officer to the stand during this initial hearing and inquire about suspicions, probable cause, legal processes, and evidence. In other words, the cop has to explain what led to the arrest and why it was okay.
Suppose a criminal defense attorney finds something amiss with the case. Perhaps a police officer in a drug arrest can explain why they stopped a defendant in the first place. Your lawyer can then ask the judge to dismiss the case because the initial detention violated your civil rights. If the judge agrees, the case might be dead before it even gets going.
If you plead guilty, you forgo any right to the discovery process. Discovery is a legal requirement that the state has to show you all of the evidence in the case and any witnesses that might appear at trial. The government has to prove that it took care of the evidence, avoiding contamination and documenting its whereabouts at all times.
Even one mistake in handling the evidence is enough for a criminal defense attorney to ask a judge to throw it out. Likewise, losing a key piece of evidence may force the prosecution to give up.
There is also the potential that the judge will reduce the charges. This can happen because the court feels the prosecution overreached. It also might be part of a plea bargain.
Conviction on a lesser charge can be a difference-maker. The difference between a felony assault charge and a disorderly conduct conviction may mean years of your life. Likewise, a felony conviction may reduce long-term employment prospects and even housing options.
First-time offenders are also sometimes eligible for diversion programs. For example, someone might get a suspended plea in an assault case. If they complete anger management, the conviction goes off their record entirely.
Reach out to a local criminal defense lawyer to learn more.Share
11 March 2021
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