A common question that we get is whether a particular person’s case is “serious” or “important” enough to hire an attorney to represent them. Most people who ask this question are usually weighing in their mind whether what they believe the likely consequences for their criminal charges will outweigh the amount of money that they’ll need to invest in hiring an attorney to reduce or eliminate those consequences. This is usually a short-sighted analysis that comes back to bite them in the backside in the future.
The short answer is, yes, your case is absolutely important enough to hire an attorney. You absolutely need to have an attorney when you’ve been charged with a crime, no matter WHAT that crime is, even if it’s something like public intoxication or trespassing. The longer answer is a bit more involved.
Unfortunately, we live in a world today where is seems like a lot of people are within three degrees of the criminal justice system. This means that a lot of people have either been thru the system themselves, they know someone who’s been thru the system, or they know someone who knows someone who’s been thru the system. This increased familiarity with the criminal courts has led a lot of people to try and tell their friends that it’s not worth it to hire an attorney for a low-level offense because supposedly nothing bad is going to happen to them.
I know these people think that they’re helping, but they’re not and you shouldn’t listen to them. First, there’s no such thing as an unimportant crime. Even with the jail crowding issues that we have, people DO still go to jail for misdemeanors. Even if you don’t go to jail, there are still a lot of consequences for being convicted of a crime. Most people who don’t go to jail end up on probation for a year or more. Probation isn’t free, and it can also control some of the places you’re allowed to go and the people that you can see in certain extreme cases. Also, having ANY conviction is fair game for being discriminated against in the employment and housing areas. Most people don’t consider those consequences when they’re deciding that they don’t need an attorney.
So what good does an attorney do for you in lower-level cases? Well, as mentioned before, one of the things that we can do is explain your situation to you and make sure you understand all of your choices and the possible consequences of those choices. Another thing we can do is review your case for legal defenses that you may not be aware of. We can also negotiate with the prosecutor on your case and see about getting you a better result than you can get if you just plead guilty without the benefit of an attorney. If you just throw your hands in the air and say “I’m guilty”, the prosecutor may not ask for jail time but you haven’t given him a reason to cut your probation short, or to not require it at all. Since you haven’t made him work, he has no reason to give you a benefit that someone with an attorney might have been able to get for you. These last two points are SO important that judges are required to advise people who want to plead guilty without an attorney that an attorney may be better able to review the facts of your case, prepare defenses, and negotiate on your behalf with the prosecutor before he can accept your guilty plea.
Now, there are obviously costs involved in hiring an attorney, so you want to make sure that the one you invest in takes the time to sit down with you and answer all of your questions. Investing in an attorney, even for a low-level offense, is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever need to make. Ask your attorney about their qualifications, and if they’ve ever handled a case like yours before. We can’t discuss “win/loss” records, but we can let you know whether we’ve represented people in similar circumstances. And if the attorney that you’re speaking with isn’t interested in taking the time to have that conversation with you, move on to the next prospective attorney. Good attorneys have no problems answering these questions. Great attorneys make you feel confident after answering them.
At Razumich & Associates, our goal is to make sure that each of our clients receives the personalized attention that their cases deserve so that they can make the best possible decisions on important matters affecting their future. We personally meet with everyone who sets an appointment with our office, and we will take as long as necessary to make sure that every question you have is answered as completely as possible. That’s our promise to you: we’re Lawyers Ready to Fight, and we look forward to fighting for you.