If you have recently been accused of a crime for the first time you are likely going through a highly emotional and stressful experience. Along with worrying about the fact that you have been accused of committing a crime you have also been thrown into a system that you know nothing about most likely. After all, unless you are part of the criminal justice system you have no reason to learn how it works. Likewise, unless you need to work with a criminal defense attorney, you have no reason to understand how they operate and how they go about defending an accused. Now, however, you have a reason to learn more about both the criminal justice system and the job of a criminal defense attorney. One question that frequently comes up with first-time defendants is “Do criminal defense lawyers push you to go to trial?” Like most questions related to the prosecution of a criminal case, an easy answer to that question does not exist; however, a brief explanation of the role of a defense lawyers may help answer it.
The State’s Burden
Before discussing the role of a criminal defense attorney it is important to first discuss the State’s burden in a criminal prosecution. In the United States, an individual is “innocent until proven guilty.” That expression is not simply a catchy phrase. On the contrary, it serves as the basis for our entire criminal justice system. In a criminal prosecution the State of Nebraska has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty. The defendant is not required to do anything in a criminal trial. While it is true that most defendants do put on some type of defense at trial, a defendant could do absolutely nothing at trial is he/she chose because the burden is entirely on the State to prove guilt.
What Role Does a Defense Attorney Play in a Criminal Prosecution?
One of the biggest misperceptions people have about a criminal prosecution is found in the way people perceive the job of a criminal defense attorney. Specifically, people are often under the mistaken belief that it is a defense attorney’s job to tell the defendant what to do and/or to make decisions for the defendant. This is simply not the case. A criminal defense attorney does not tell a defendant what to do nor make decisions for the defendant. This includes the most important decision of all – whether to take a case to trial or not. A defense attorney’s job encompasses many things though. Some of the things defense attorney are responsible for during the representation of a client include:
- Explaining the charges to the client and the penalties the client faces if convicted
- Reviewing the evidence the State has against the client
- Investigating the crime
- Interviewing witnesses
- Evaluating and/or testing evidence
- Protecting the client’s rights
- Developing and explaining the various defense options
- Advising the client throughout the case
- Challenging illegal conduct by the police
- Becoming the client’s voice with the State, law enforcement, and/or the media
- Negotiating a favorable plea agreement
- Presenting a defense at trial
- Appealing unfavorable outcomes
“To Try or Not to Try”…That Is the Question
Often, taking a case to trial is never a serious consideration from the very beginning. This may be because the defendant simply wants to get the case over with and has been offered an excellent plea agreement offer or it may be because the State’s case is so strong it doesn’t make sense to go to trial. If it is a serious consideration, however, a defense attorney should play an important advisory role in making the decision to try the case. Only a defense attorney can give you a realistic opinion about your chances of winning at trial – as well as what sentence would likely be if you lose at trial. A defense attorney should never push you to go to trial. In fact, your defense attorney should never push you to do anything.
An experienced criminal defense attorney is invaluable during the prosecution of a case; however, almost all decisions relating to how the case proceeds should be made by you after consulting your attorney, not the other way around, experienced Nebraska criminal defense lawyer immediately. Contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney today.