Let’s say you happened to be at the scene of a violent crime you didn’t know was committed. Someone discovers this crime occurred and notifies the police. The authorities arrive — and you’re right there, nothing more than a sitting duck. They read you your rights and make the arrest. The judge feels that you’re a flight risk, denies you bail, and sends you to jail right then and there. Naturally, you’re baffled. You don’t know what to do! Should you ask for legal counsel?
The short answer is yes, absolutely!
The long answer is more complicated. It only benefits law enforcement — and not you — if you open your mouth to explain what you were doing and why, even when you’re not guilty of committing a crime. Sure, detectives will use every trick in the book to attempt to get you to talk. “Why would you need an attorney if you’re not guilty?” they’ll ask. But plenty of innocent parties have been arrested, found guilty, and incarcerated for years and years. That’s why you have the right to remain silent. You should employ that right.
You won’t want just any attorney. You will want to find a qualified felony defense attorney (or criminal defense). These individuals have experience. They know how to bargain with prosecutors. They’ve defended many others in court long before you came along.
What are your options when you have legal counsel? Well, first and foremost, it depends on what kind of evidence made you subject to arrest — and whether or not it stands the test of time. Often, prosecutors will find new evidence that exonerates you or proves someone else committed the crime. If they do not, you might be in more trouble than initially expected.
Your lawyer might bring you two options. The first option is simple: “We fight the charges in a court of law.” The second option might be hard to swallow: “The prosecution has evidence that would most likely sway a jury into thinking you committed the crime, but they offered us a plea deal. You say you did the crime, they reduce the charges, and you go to jail for a reduced sentence if the judge agrees.” Most likely neither of those options will sound good.
The sad fact is this: A person who is innocent of a crime is far more likely to plead not guilty than someone who is. That’s because it makes more sense for the guilty party to accept a plea deal than face the actual consequences of their actions, but an innocent party will be resilient to accept any consequences at all — especially when they’ve already paid a pretty penny to retain a felony defense attorney.
Hopefully it never comes to that. But legal counsel is always necessary. They know how to communicate with the prosecution and judge. They know how to find the best possible solution to your legal woes. They will advise you. Ultimately, you should accept that you might need to make concessions if nothing goes your way.