Happy Monday morning my wonderful readers. Those of you who have encountered my posts before know that I am a criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, and that I specialize in representing people if they are being investigated for or actually face prosecution related to a federal crime.
I just finished meeting with a client. We discussed many things related to his case and his life (I am one of those lawyers who simply enjoy getting to know much more about my clients beyond than the matter which brings them to my office). Along the way, he and I talked through the two biggest decisions in any criminal case.
DECISION NUMBER ONE: trial versus guilty plea (or other alternative resolution). This is often the toughest decision, and is based on the evidence (obviously), the potential penalties, the complexity of a trial, plus a myriad of other factors. Some lawyers who have lesser trial experience subtly shade their recommendation so that their client is less likely to seek a trial. I think that is a mistaken way to approach the trial/plea decision. I have tried approximately 100 federal criminal cases of all types, and I relish the courtroom experience! However, I always remind clients that while I personally enjoy the courtroom battle, it is their life and future on the line so my enjoyment of the experience is completely beside the point. The decision is completely up to the client in the long run, I simply make my professional recommendation.
DECISION NUMBER TWO: Client testifies/asserts Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. If my client and I decide that the best strategy is to have a trial, then we have to confront the question of whether he or she should testify in their own defense. Every situation is different, and I get kind of angry when I hear lawyers say stuff like they never let their clients testify, etc. In my view that is the wrong approach, because no two cases are the same. While there are obvious dangers when the accused person takes the witness stand, it is always an option worth discussing.
OK, back to work everyone!