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Do You Still Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer Even if You’re Guilty?

If you’re ever seen the movie, “My Cousin Vinny,” you’ll probably recall the scene where the Judge asks Joe Pesci, who is acting as his cousin’s (very inexperienced) criminal defense lawyer, how his client wishes to plead. What the Judge really wants to know is — does his client want to plead “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.” However, Joe Pesci launches into a long story in an attempt to explain to the Judge that his client “didn’t do it.” In the movie, the Judge finally loses his patience with Joe Pesci and holds him in contempt of court for not answering the simple question. But, that scene brings up an interesting thought. What if his client had, in fact, “did it?”

Many people think that, if they’re arrested and charged with a crime, they only need a criminal defense lawyer’s help if they are innocent and want to “fight” the case. But, that line of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. I used to fix cars before I became an attorney, so I’ll use that as an example. Let’s say that you overheat your engine while driving, and you blow out a head gasket. Whether or not you overheated the engine as a result of driving too aggressively (your fault) or simply because the thermostat was faulty (coincidental), you’d still take your vehicle to a mechanic to have it fixed because you probably don’t know anything about head gaskets or how to repair them. Or, maybe you don’t know what a head gasket is, and that is a horrible example. Never fear…I’ll explain in more detail.

You Still Need a Criminal Defense Attorney Even if You’re Guilty

Many of my clients are, in fact, guilty of the crime with which they’ve been charged. People make mistakes. It’s a universal fact. But, just because you are guilty and “did it,” doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t benefit from having a criminal defense lawyer to help you navigate your way through the justice system.

Let’s look at another example to help illustrate why you’d still benefit from hiring a criminal defense attorney, even if you’re guilty. Assume you’re arrested and charged with Assault, which is a Class A Misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in the county jail and up to a $4,000 fine. And, you’re totally guilty! The assault was recorded by a surveillance camera and happened right in front of 4 nuns and 3 police officers, who can all testify on the State’s behalf. So, you go to your court setting alone, the assistant district attorney comes over to you and says, “If you plead guilty, you’ll be convicted, put on probation for 2 years, your fine will be $2,500, you’ll have to do 160 hours of community service, and you’ll have to spend 7 days in the county jail as a condition of your probation.”

So, there it is. Those are your options. You either have to accept the State’s offer, or set the case for trial. And, keep in mind, if you set the case for trial, you’ll be on your own and up against an experienced attorney who typically conducts 2-4 trials a week. You’ll have to subpoena witnesses to show up for trial, pick a jury, know the rules of evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and you’ll need to know how to admit exhibits into the record…among many other things. So, the sad reality is that, even if you were innocent, you’d still most likely lose the trial. And, the assistant district attorney knows that, which is why he or she won’t negotiate with you.

So, getting back to our example, if you’re flat-out guilty, taking your case to trial isn’t usually a realistic option. Therefore, you basically only have one option. You have to accept the State’s plea offer. But, here’s the problem — how do you know if the State’s offer is fair? What types of offers has the State made in other assault cases that are similar to yours? What pieces of their evidence are admissible at trial? What witnesses will be available to testify at trial? Are you eligible for Pre-Trial Diversion? Would it be better to have the Judge decide your punishment, instead of entering a plea with the State? And, if so, what is that particular Judge likely to decide?

As you might have guessed, these reasons and others are why having an experienced criminal defense lawyer handle your case is extremely beneficial — even if you’re guilty! I know the answers to those questions above. In fact, I’ve seen cases where people who choose not to hire an attorney end up with fines so high that — had they had an attorney — the attorney probably could have reduced the fines enough to cover the cost of the his or her services! So, just because you “did it,” doesn’t mean that I can’t help you. If you have questions or would like to see if I can help you with a case, please contact me at (972) 372-4054.