Are you currently facing criminal charges in the State of Nebraska? If so, you probably have a long list of questions about the criminal justice system in general, and your case in particular. You may also be curious about your relationship with the criminal defense attorney you retain to represent you. Given the fact there is no shortage of television shows which revolve around the criminal justice system, people often think they understand how the system works only to find out real life is not always as it is portrayed on television. The relationship between attorney and client is a good example. On television, for example, it is frequently depicted the defense attorney must know, with certainty, whether his/her client is innocent. In reality, however, your criminal defense attorney may not even ask you if you did it.
The Job of a Criminal Defense Attorney May Not Be What You Thought It Was
When asked, most people will tell you the job of a criminal defense attorney is to provide a winning defense to the crime for which his/her client has been charged. Providing an actual defense may be part of a criminal defense attorney’s job, but his/her primary job is to ensure the State does not secure a conviction without proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Part of that responsibility entails ensuring your rights were not violated by the police during the investigation and/or arrest. For instance, imagine you were arrested for selling a controlled substance and a search and seizure by the police was part of the investigation that led to your arrest. Your criminal defense attorney would undoubtedly review that search and seizure to make sure the police had a warrant, or that an exception to the warrant requirement applied. If your attorney believes the search was conducted illegally, he/she would challenge it.
Does Your Guilt or Innocence Matter?
Unless you happen to be a criminal defense attorney, it likely sounds preposterous to ask whether or not a client’s guilt or innocence matters. It many ways though, it may not be as important as you think. Remember, the State has the burden to prove you guilty. That means the defendant is not required to provide any defense at all. In fact, sometimes a defendant doesn’t put on any defense at a trial, preferring to simply rely on the fact that the State has failed to meet its burden. Because the State has the burden of proving guilt, a criminal defense attorney’s focus is on what the State can prove. Sometimes, asking a client whether or not he/she did it is actually distracting and unnecessary. In the example of the controlled substance arrest mentioned above, a criminal defense attorney doesn’t need to know if the defendant really was selling drugs because what matters is that the police conducted an illegal search which will result in the evidence obtained during the search being inadmissible at trial. That, in turn, will likely mean the State cannot meet its burden of demonstrating the defendant was guilty of that offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
On the other hand, your criminal defense attorney may need to know if you really committed the crime if such knowledge is crucial to your defense. If your attorney is contemplating putting you on the stand at trial, for example, knowing whether or not you are guilty could be important because you could be faced with some tricky questions from the prosecutor and your attorney would need to know ahead of time how you will answer them. Your attorney may also want to know if you are guilty to avoid being blindsided with evidence of your guilt in the middle of a trial.
The most important rule to remember is this: Your attorney will not ask questions unless the answer is important to your attorney’s ability to protect and defend you. Furthermore, the answers you give to your attorney are protected under the attorney-client privilege, meaning your attorney cannot tell anyone now, or in the future, if you admit your guilt.
If you are currently a defendant in a criminal prosecution in the State of Nebraska, it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away. Contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.