It always blows my mind when someone asks, “Why do I need a defense lawyer if I’m guilty?”
Why do you need a defense attorney, even if you are guilty? Hopefully, to keep you out of jail, to keep you off probation, to get your case dismissed, to answer your questions, and to get the best possible resolution to your charges.
We have successfully represented clients who were guilty, who were innocent, and who may or may not have been guilty. Also, there are shades of guilty – many people may have committed the crimes they are charged with, yet they do not deserve the punishment the state intends to hit them with.
Do you need a criminal defense lawyer if you are guilty? Do you want to accept the worst possible outcome without even trying to make your situation better?
The Importance of Mitigation
You should not decide to plead guilty before you have met with your criminal defense lawyer, and they have had the opportunity to investigate your case – both an independent investigation and a review of the state’s evidence against you.
In the worst possible case, if you decide to plead guilty to avoid the potential for a worse sentence after trial, the mitigation and arguments that your attorney prepares for sentencing could make the difference between prison or probation, probation or a fine, or even pretrial diversion or a dismissal of your charges.
Even when the facts and law are solidly against you, your attorney can make an argument to the prosecutor for reduced charges or to a judge for a reduced sentence based on mitigating circumstances like:
- Character references from your employer, relatives, church members, or others who provide a signed letter with their contact information or who appear in person to speak to the court on your behalf,
- Documentation of your efforts at education – diplomas, degrees, certificates, and other courses or classes you have taken,
- Documentation of volunteer work you have done (or are currently doing) or charitable contributions,
- Awards and honors that you have received,
- Photographs of yourself and your family to humanize you to the court and the prosecutor,
- Clean drug tests, documentation of completion of treatment programs, or documentation of attendance at 12-step meetings,
- A recommendation for leniency from any alleged victims (do not approach alleged victims yourself – you must allow your attorney, their investigator, or the prosecutor to do this),
- Documentation that any restitution has been paid in full, or
- Any facts related to your case that would lessen the severity of the crime or the need for punishment.
Why do you need a criminal defense lawyer if you intend to plead guilty?
A thorough investigation and presentation of mitigating circumstances to the prosecutor could result in reduced charges, pretrial diversion, or even a dismissal of your case. A thorough investigation and presentation of mitigating circumstances to the judge at sentencing could result in a significantly lower sentence once you have been convicted.
Do you want to plead guilty and accept the worst possible sentence the court could give you, or do you want to do everything possible to reduce your charges, your sentence, and your exposure in court?
You May Have Defenses You Are Unaware Of
You might think that you are guilty, and, therefore, you must accept your punishment and move on with your life (even if that means living in prison for a while). But, what if you’re not guilty?
Never judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge a person by their appearance, and, if you’re a criminal defense lawyer, never judge a client or their case based on an incident report.
There are too many potential ways to get your case dismissed or to win it at trial to list here, but, depending on the facts uncovered during your attorney’s investigation, your charges could be dismissed or reduced or you may have a good case for trial based on:
- The officer’s failure to follow SC’s mandatory videotape laws in a DUI arrest, including the reading of your Miranda rights and a complete video of all FST’s and breathalyzer tests,
- The officer or prosecutor’s failure to produce the evidence in response to your attorney’s Brady and Rule 5 requests,
- Suppression of key evidence because the officers violated your Fourth Amendment rights during their search of your person, vehicle, computer, bank records, phone records, or home,
- Suppression of key evidence like a “confession” because the police took your statement in violation of Miranda v. Arizona,
- Key state’s witnesses who will be unavailable for trial, who your attorney can demonstrate are untruthful, or who provide exculpatory information to your attorney,
- New witnesses located by your attorney who are prepared to give exculpatory testimony,
- Information or testimony that you provide to the prosecutor in your case or even in an unrelated case,
- An officer who is unavailable to testify or who has been proven unreliable (because they committed perjury or were terminated from their job, for example),
- Clogged dockets – believe it or not, the state cannot try every case, and, in some cases, you are more likely to get a favorable plea offer or even a dismissal if your attorney is prepared to take your case to trial, or
- A failure of the state’s evidence – the witnesses are not saying what the prosecutor expected, the video does not show you making a drug deal after all, or there is an incomplete chain of custody for key evidence.
The state has the burden of proof in every case, and, if they cannot present that proof in a courtroom, your case may be dismissed or reduced to a charge that they can prove.
Although you may think you have to plead guilty and that you have no choice, some of our happiest clients are those who thought the same thing until their case was dismissed, or who thought they were destined for prison until the court or prosecutor heard their mitigation and relented.
Why Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
The Myrtle Beach and Columbia, SC criminal defense lawyers at the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm focus exclusively on criminal defense cases in SC. We have obtained dismissals, pre-trial diversion resulting in dismissals, or acquittals following trial in hundreds of criminal cases, and we have a record of proven results.
If you have been charged with a crime in SC or if you think you may be under investigation, call us now at 843-444-6122 or contact us through our website for a free initial consultation to find out if we can help.