Question: What are common mistakes that people make during the early stages of a case?
Answer: When dealing with police, people don’t understand their rights. It’s natural to want to comply with the police’s requests, but people don’t understand that they have a right to choose not to speak to a police officer. They don’t have a right to be combative or uncooperative, but they have the right to remain silent, and a lot of people [either] forget that, never knew it, or feel intimidated and don’t take advantage of that right. A lot of times, unfortunately, someone feels intimidated at the time of the police encounter and makes statements that incriminate them. It really does hurt them in the long run. That is a common mistake.
Once they have a lawyer, they aren’t alone, so they’re hopefully going to make the right decisions, to the best that they can. Once we get into the court process, through my client I’m handling the case, so I make sure that they don’t make mistakes. I’m guiding them through the process. That’s the point of having a good advocate: so that they’re not alone, they know their rights… [The lawyer] knows how to assist them, when to assist them, to make sure that it’s done in their best interest.
Question: Why is hiring a criminal defense attorney important in a criminal case?
Answer: [It’s important] because your liberty is at stake. Most cases that go to court, even reckless driving cases, include penalties that include jail time. If somebody is concerned about going to jail, they should not be representing themselves because they don’t know the law, and if they don’t go to court and practice regularly they won’t know what to expect. They could risk going to jail, but they also risk having a criminal conviction on their record that might not have happened with proper representation. It does not make sense for someone to represent themselves if they’re charged with a criminal offense.
Question: How does having an attorney with local experience help in criminal cases?
Answer: You should absolutely have a local attorney because they know what happens on a daily basis. They know the prosecutors that are handling each case, so they know how they prepare and how they approach a certain case, what they would be willing to offer in a particular case, and they also know the judges. When doing a risk assessment about whether or not to take a plea offer versus going to trial, they have to know how the judge will rule or be able to predict how they will act with some certainty. If they don’t know that and they advise the client to go to trial with a judge they don’t know, that could be the wrong decision and it could end up with bad results for the client.
Question: What is the difference between private counsel and a public defender?
Answer: The major difference would be workload. A public defender doesn’t have control over how many cases get assigned to them by the court, so generally [there] is an overwhelming caseload for public defenders. They are good attorneys, but they don’t have the same amount of time and resources to spend, resources that a private attorney might have. That’s a main difference.
The experience level, too. Public defender’s offices sometimes have people who are right out of law school handling serious cases, and they don’t have as much experience as a lot of private attorneys do. Of course, there are a lot of private attorneys who don’t have experience either.
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