The average person may go through life never needing the services of a criminal defense attorney. If you find yourself in a position where you do need a criminal defense attorney, you probably will not know what to expect from the relationship. In fact, your knowledge of the criminal justice system in general may be limited to what you have seen portrayed on television court dramas or reality shows. Needless to say, television is not your best source of information. With that in mind, the following “5 Things Your Omaha Criminal Defense Attorney Wants You to Know” should help you gain a more realistic understanding of the criminal justice system and the job of a criminal defense attorney.
- You have rights; however, you must assert them. In the United States, if you are accused of a criminal offense you have a number of rights, most of which are guaranteed to you in the first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, collectively known as the “Bill of Rights.” Many of these rights are likely already familiar to you, such the right to remain silent, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against you, and the right to an attorney. These rights are meant to protect you from being convicted of a crime without just cause and from abuses of power by the government. For these rights to help you, however, you must assert them when appropriate. For example, you must tell a police officer that you do not wish to answer questions and that you want an attorney present before speaking to law enforcement authorities. Likewise, you will most often have to ask for an attorney to be present in order to exercise your right to counsel.
- You are not required to prove anything. The phrase “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” is ingrained in our collective psyche in the U.S. Despite this, many people still fail to understand what it really means. Not only is the State (via the prosecuting attorney) required to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction, but you could sit through the entire trial and never present a single piece of evidence or testimony. In fact, sometimes the best defense is to do nothing if the State’s case clearly falls short of meeting its burden.
- Your criminal defense attorney probably doesn’t want to know if you are guilty. Are you wondering whether or not to admit your guilt to your attorney? If so, the rule of thumb is usually not to say anything unless asked directly. There are several practical and ethical reasons why your attorney may not want to know you are guilty; however, do not ever lie to your attorney if asked a direct question.
- A jury “of your peers” may not exist. The idea behind a jury trial is to allow your peers to decide the issue of guilt. That does not, however, mean that you get to go out and handpick people from the community to sit on your jury. Instead, you will start with a group of people chosen at random from the state voter registration or driver’s license lists. Both sides then get to exclude some of those candidates. The jury you end up with may have few people on it that you would consider your “peer,” particularly if you are a minority.
- Your attorney gives you advice. You make the final decisions. Except in some instances that have to do with trial strategy, the decisions in a criminal case are the defendant’s to make. Your criminal defense attorney provides you with information and advice; however, he/she should not make decisions for you. For example, the decision to accept a guilty plea agreement or to go to a jury trial is a decision only you can make after consulting with your attorney.
Contact an Omaha Criminal Defense Attorney at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, consult with an experienced Omaha criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.