Whether you are contesting a criminal charge or pleading guilty, you need a criminal defense attorney on your side. No matter how friendly and professional a prosecutor seems, he or she can never be a substitute for a criminal defense lawyer in the plea bargaining process for five important reasons:
- Prosecutors’ interests directly oppose the interests of those charged with crimes. Prosecutors must resolve many cases every day, so their interests are to get you to plead guilty as quickly as possible rather than ensure you make the best decision.
- Prosecutors cannot offer you legal advice because they are not your attorney.
- Due to their heavy workloads, prosecutors do not have the time or incentive to explore the specific facts of your situation — and may not even let you explain your side of the story — to find the best resolution.
- Since the goal of all prosecutors is to resolve cases as quickly as possible, they may not ask you questions to determine whether you qualify for alternatives to pleading guilty, such as criminal deferral programs.
- Prosecutors may not offer you the same plea deal they would offer defense attorneys because prosecutors know you will not know if you are getting a good deal and probably won’t go to trial.
In stark contrast, when you hire a defense attorney, you gain an attorney-client relationship and all its benefits, including attorney-client privilege, a thorough analysis of your specific facts and circumstances (such as whether police properly conducted their search), and candid legal advice. Your lawyer will also help you understand all the implications of your conviction and the possibility of appeals or expungement. Finally, a defense attorney comes with a great deal of plea bargaining experience — often with that specific prosecutor. That means the defense attorney knows what facts, circumstances and arguments will be able to persuade the prosecutor and knows what deals a prosecutor usually offers in similar cases.
Navigating the criminal justice system without a defense attorney is like trying to play chess without learning the rules, but with much more at stake. Now that you have made your decision to hire a lawyer to represent you, check out these top tips for finding the right criminal defense attorney.