There is an old saying in the law: he who chooses to serve as his own lawyer has a fool for a client. Nowhere is this aphorism more apt than when it comes to deciding whether to plead guilty to criminal charges. If you have been charged with a crime and think you may want to plead guilty, then you need a lawyer to represent you and guide you through your options. Period. Full stop. Here’s why.
Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You
In a criminal proceeding, a lawyer acts as a buffer between the accused and the prosecutor. This is critical job function for the lawyer, because as we’ve all heard police officers say on television when they arrest a suspect: “you have the right to remain silent” and “anything you say can and will be used against you.” Your fundamental, constitutional right to not say anything that might incriminate you in a crime is one of your most powerful rights as a citizen or visitor to this great country. Deciding not to retain a lawyer to communicate with the government on your behalf essentially surrenders that fundamental right without getting anything in return. Don’t do it.
Pleading Guilty Means More Than Just Accepting Responsibility and Taking Your Punishment
When the team at Dungan & LeFevre represents a criminal defendant, we often find our client does not appreciate the potentially significant consequences of pleading guilty to a crime. Yes, pleading guilty involves accepting responsibility. Yes, it likely means you will be sentenced by a judge to a legally-prescribed punishment. But, it also could mean you will suffer all kinds of secondary consequences you might not have considered. These may include loss of civic rights and privileges (driver’s license, parental visitation, the right to vote); subjecting yourself to supervision by a probation officer and restrictions on your daily life (job loss, loss of internet use); and registering with authorities (such as a sex offender). An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand, plan for, and in some cases avoid these collateral consequences. At the very least, you should never decide to plead guilty without having a full picture of them.
Lawyers Know How to Negotiate a Guilty Plea. You Don’t.
A criminal defense lawyer spends part of every day negotiating agreements with the government. They often have a working relationship with the prosecutor in charge of the client’s case. The lawyer knows which issues matter to the prosecutor and which that don’t. They know what other “deals” the prosecutor has cut with people in similar positions and what appropriate sentence recommendations may be. The lawyer knows which terms and conditions of a plea agreement need extra attention to serve the client’s interests.
Criminal defendants rarely have a grasp of the details involved in negotiating a guilty plea; much less any ability to negotiate a plea agreement on their own. Without a lawyer on their side to protect them in discussions with the prosecutor, they leave themselves exposed to unduly harsh charges and punishments.
Experienced, Diligent Criminal Defense Attorneys
The team at Dungan & LeFevre has years of experience representing criminal defendants in Ohio state and federal courts. We take our clients’ rights seriously and aim to protect them at all costs. Our attorneys have the resources and know-how to negotiate favorable plea agreements with prosecutors whenever possible, and to defend them before judges and juries with a plea isn’t in the cards.
Do not attempt to face any part of the criminal justice system on your own. Contact the knowledgeable, determined criminal defense lawyers at Dungan & LeFevre today to schedule a consultation and learn how we may be able to help you protect your fundamental rights.