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Why You Probably Need a Defense Lawyer – Even if You’re Innocent

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Why You Probably Need a Defense Lawyer – Even if You’re Innocent

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While the United States justice system operates under a supposition that people are innocent until proven guilty, the experience of criminal charges can feel quite different. Investigators and prosecutors often pursue their cases with tunnel-like vision, searching for enough evidence to prove their cases. In the face of criminal charges, consulting with and hiring a defense attorney makes as much sense for the innocent as it does for the guilty.


The Risks of NOT Hiring a Lawyer

When arresting officers say, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” they mean it. From the moment of arrest, investigators, prosecutors, and judges will scrutinize a person’s every action. How defendants behave, what they say, and how they say it can all reappear in the courtroom as evidence of guilt. People could interpret a phrase as innocuous as, “I’m sorry,” as an admission of guilt.

Investigators will use scare tactics, interview techniques, and psychological tricks to build an argument for probable cause. Some will lie to the accused to get what they need. They craft police reports and interrogation documents to build a case for prosecutors. In other words, they’ve already decided the guilt of a person when they call him or her in for questioning.

People make mistakes and witnesses sometimes lie. Many cases rely on the interpretation of an honest interrogation, which is different from the objective truth. Innocent defendants charged with serious and/or violent crimes often face an uphill battle. They can either accept the charges and the consequences or they can fight. Without an attorney who understands the way the system works, fighting may not change the outcome.

In a legal system filled with risk, innocent people face wrongful imprisonment every day. A defense attorney levels the playing field and prevents the state from taking advantage of criminal defendants.

The Role of Defense Attorneys

Hiring an attorney does not make defendants appear guiltier. If anything, it shows an understanding of our legal system. Without an attorney, justice system mistakes and unethical practices may go unchallenged.

Defense attorneys serve several roles as legal advocates. They help their clients understand the nuances of the laws and protect their clients’ rights. For every crime, several factors play a role in case outcomes. The type of crime, statute of limitations, character of the defendant, legality of the investigation, and the role of other perpetrators will all affect the outcome of a case. When investigators and prosecutors make mistakes, defense attorneys prevent those mistakes from affecting the outcome of a trial.

The role of a defense attorney does not include passing judgment on a client. Technically, what a defense attorney believes or feels is irrelevant. The justice system is not about public perceptions, but about the law. Criminal defense attorneys exist to guide their clients through the complexities of state and local laws. They offer the same level of impartial support to clients because everyone deserves a fair trial.

Specifically, attorneys provide valuable services including:

  • Preventing prosecutors from filing charges in the first place
  • Helping defendants understand what they should and should not say online, in person, in jail, and in court
  • Conducting independent investigations to gather exonerating evidence and fight a prosecutor’s case
  • Speaking in public on a client’s behalf
  • Holding the state accountable for unethical or illegal actions
  • Building and presenting a case for dismissal or a reduction in charges

When to Contact a Defense Attorney

Regardless of guilt, anyone accused of a crime should contact a defense attorney as soon as possible. For some, that may mean reaching out during an active investigation. For others, it means contacting an attorney from jail or after a judge has issued an arrest warrant.

Many attorneys offer free initial consultations. Talk to an attorney about his or her experience and approach to defense cases. During initial conversations, defense attorneys often provide valuable insights about the outlook of a case. In light of the information provided in a consultation, many defendants recognize the value in hiring a defense attorney. Defense attorneys cost money, but in a criminal case, a person’s entire future is on the line.

Attorneys begin their defense work the moment a client hires them. They answer questions, provide emotional support, and represent their clients during witness depositions, hearings, and trials. The sooner you reach out for support, the more time an attorney has to prepare. If you can’t afford to hire your choice of defense attorneys, work with the local public defender’s office to obtain representation. Some attorneys accept cases pro bono. Everyone has the right to an attorney, and securing representation will affect the handling and outcome of a case.

Outcomes of Criminal Cases Involving Innocent Defendants

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 149 people were exonerated of criminal offenses in 2015 – a new record. That number does not include the people still in jail for crimes they didn’t commit. Defense attorneys cannot guarantee certain outcomes, but they do improve outcomes for their clients. An experienced attorney will protect an accused individual from giving a false confession, experiencing police misconduct, or feeling bullied into giving a guilty plea. If you are innocent, you need an attorney on your side to protect your freedom, your reputation, and your rights.

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