Initially, when you get arrested there is one important decision that you get to make that will determine how much control you have over your case as it filters through the system. First and foremost, you get to decide as a criminal defendant whether or not you want to hire counsel. If you chose to represent yourself you will be responsible for making every decision along the way. This is a very dangerous position to be in unless you have had significant legal training. Even lawyers hire lawyers when needed as they know it is better to have a qualified advocate speaking on your behalf.
If you decide to hire counsel, your attorney, if they do their job correctly, will exercise all of your rights on your behalf. This includes filing appropriate motions and documents with the court to preserve issues, obtaining evidence to prepare for your case, and ultimately keeping you informed along the way. The ethics rules in this state allow an attorney to make most of the decisions on your behalf throughout this process. Your attorney will/should seek your opinion on many issues. However, most pretrial action such as whether pretrial motions are filed, hearings on those issues are heard, or particular aspects of investigation are conducted are activities left solely within the sound discretion of your lawyer.
The next decision that must be made by you is whether you want to take a negotiated plea that your attorney has worked out or whether you want your case to go to trial. Your attorney will advise you through this process but ultimately it will always be your decision. The way I explain this to my clients is:
I am going to propose two paths for you to take. I will tell you the potential risks and rewards of both of those paths. Once you have all the information, you tell me which path you want to take and I will do everything in my power to achieve the goal we are looking for.
There have been times that I have advised a person to go to trial and they decide they cannot take the risk. Under those set of circumstances, we do not go to trial. On the other hand, there have been a handful of times that I have advised a client it is not in their best interest to put their case in the hands of a jury; however, they were adamant that they wanted their day in court. Under those set of circumstances, those clients had their case heard by a jury of their peers. It is a very difficult decision to make at this stage of the representation and your attorney should be able to give you all the information you need that will assist you in making the decision that is best for you at that time.
The last decision you get to make as a criminal defendant presents itself once you have made the decision to go to trial. You don’t get to decide how the case gets tried, what objections are made, or even what evidence is presented. The only thing you have control over is whether or not you want to testify. This is a right that neither a judge nor your attorney can take from you. Obviously, when making this decision, you should heed the advice of counsel when discussing your options; however, in the end, it will always be your decision.
The system is set up so that a qualified person is making most of the strategic decisions on your behalf. Hire counsel that you can trust to make these decisions along the way. We have a tremendous amount of trial experience and are perfectly positioned to help you throughout whatever legal issue you may be going through. Please, don’t hesitate to call our office today at (770) 945-2320.