TOS 09. PSA: Why You Should ALWAYS Speak to an Attorney After You've Been Arrested
He was a tall, lanky black man. In most crowds, he would have stuck out, however, I did not notice him until he stepped before the judge.
The air around him screamed, "I just want to get out of here," and so did his actions.
"Do you want to speak with an attorney?"
"So you're satisfied with just speaking to a prosecutor?"
"Well, let's proceed with the plea."
My heart broke.
There is no reason for anyone in the United States to enter into a plea agreement with the State without first speaking with a defense attorney. At that exact moment, when it is just you and the prosecutor and judge, it may seem pointless, but it's not. Your life is worth the effort.
A defense attorney can:
- Evaluate whether there is enough evidence against you to constitute a crime.
- Make sure your constitutional rights weren't violated.
- Negotiate better terms for punishment.
- Explain the potential consequences of a plea.
IS THERE ENOUGH EVIDENCE?
One of the primary roles of a defense attorney is to analyze whether or not enough evidence has been gathered against you for the charges to stand. There are times when there just isn't enough evidence for the charges against you to stand up in court. A prosecutor is probably not going to tell you that they don't have a case against you. They may not even realize it. A criminal defense attorney, on the other hand, will be making that analysis as soon as they are on your case. Don't assume that because you were arrested and caught "red-handed" in your eyes, there's actually enough evidence to convict you because there just might not be.
DID THE GOVERNMENT VIOLATE YOUR RIGHTS?
The United States Constitution gives people accused of crimes to rights that can make a world of difference in defending a case:
- The right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.
- The right to an attorney.
These two rights like any other right is sometimes violated. Lawyers are trained to catch the violations and hold the state accountable for their actions. Lawyers can't do that if you never give them the chance to. When an individual enters into a plea the bind themselves to a conviction and shut the door to any real chance of making sure the police did not abuse their power in trying to arrest someone for a crime. Don't just relinquish your rights without exploring the options available to you.
DOES THE TIME FIT THE CRIME?
Finally, there are so many instances where prosecutors are simply offering people punishments based on a chart used in their office. They are not always taking the time to look at the specific facts of your case to decide whether or not their proposed punishment is actually appropriate for your specific situation.
A good defense attorney will make the state pay attention to the nuanced facts in your case and in your life, to ensure that if you must take a plea, it actually makes sense for you. There is no reason for someone to bind themselves to a 12 month probation period for a drug possession crime, if some community service and an anti-drug class would do.
DOES A CONVICTION FOR ____ EVEN MATTER?
YES!!! Every conviction matters. Obviously there are some that matter more than others, but do not assume that because a crime is a misdemeanor or is being handled in municipal court, it will not have collateral effects. These things stay with you where ever you go, so if there is an opportunity to fight, you need to take it.
The summary: DO NOT DISCARD YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. GET A DEFENSE ATTORNEY!!!