By Caryn J. Adams
Partner and Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC
I often tell those who come to see me that a good criminal defense attorney plays two principal roles. On the one hand, a defense attorney does in court everything that you would expect a defense attorney to do: negotiate with the district attorney, argue your case to the jury, present you in the best light possible to the judge, file applicable legal motions (to suppress evidence, to preserve evidence, to reconsider a judicial ruling, etc). This is usually how people think of attorneys, and it’s often how attorneys think of themselves. When attorneys get together, the conversation often turns to the last trial won or last motion successfully argued in court. However, the courtroom is only half the job.
A good defense attorney plays a different role in the privacy of the conference room or the office when talking with her client. Outside of the court room, a good defense attorney is responsible for providing all of the information to a client required for a client to make a good decision about his own family and life. Criminal defense attorneys know that each person comes to the table with different priorities. A younger person accused with a crime might be more worried about keeping his record as clean as possible, so as not to lose out on any employment or educational opportunities down the road. A retiree accused with a crime might be more focused on mitigating the punishment, worried about how his health will affect his ability to perform community service or how his lack of employment might limit the jail alternatives available to him. Some folks need the ability to move or work out of state as soon as possible. Others are worried about being asked to leave their military careers, college campuses, or places of employment. In any case, it’s the attorney’s job to listen to and understand those needs and talk about the criminal case in the context of how the client’s goals can be met (or not).
Which leads me to plea bargains. Sometimes innocent people take plea bargains. They invariably do so because they feel that taking the plea bargain best serves their needs or mitigates their risks. It is always the client’s decision to do so. It should never be the attorney’s decision. I learned years ago that no matter what choice I would make as an attorney, I’m not the one who has to live with the consequences. I answer questions. I help clients weigh risks. I explore every potential outcome and future consequence to the best of my ability. But at the end of the day, I’m an advisor, not a substitute decision maker.
If you’re facing criminal charges, you may be worried about what’s going to happen in court. You’re probably also wondering how your case is going to affect your family and your future. You don’t have to go through the process alone. The Gasper Law Group offers free initial consultations.