No matter the circumstances, there are instances where a defendant has been accused of something which she or he did not do. They will usually still need to hire an attorney to represent them; this would be the most reasonable course of action. However, this does not mean that the case will have to go to trial.
I’m Truly Innocent of The Charges Which Have Been Lodged Against Me. What Happens If I Have To Go To Trial?
Well, the worst-case scenario would be that you are handed down a guilty verdict…or that you have to plead guilty. Yes, we know that you believe that you are innocent, and very likely you are, but sometimes innocent persons opt to plead guilty, if they go to trial.
That Doesn’t Make Sense. Why Would I Have to Plead Guilty if I’m Saying That I Didn’t Do It?
We know that it doesn’t seem reasonable, to think that you would have to “cop a plea” to something that you didn’t do, but here’s the behind the scenes background: There are a great many cases (sometimes in the area of 90% of the charges brought to trial) which are “resolved” via the process of plea bargaining.
Plea Bargaining? But At Least I’ll Have the Chance To Tell My Story Before an Impartial Judge and Jury, Right?
Not if your attorney sees fit to go the plea bargain route. The reason for this is that most plea bargain scenarios occur in private consultation sessions, or behind the proverbial closed doors. There will be no judge nor jury listening in to guarantee a fair “trial” in that case. As an interesting aside: There is an exception to this, in two states, thus far: Florida and Connecticut. If you’re in either one of those states, you have a good chance of having a judge sit in your plea bargaining session.
However, the reason that plea bargains are expeditious, in the view of the courts, is that they cut down the number of cases clogging the criminal court system.
In many cases, the prosecution tries to convince the defense attorney to agree to a speedy plea bargain, so that the gravest charge may be avoided.
This is a form of negotiating, but many times still involves incarceration—although ostensibly a reduced version of what the sentence might be.
I’d Rather Not Do That. What Are My Options?
You have a few options. If the prosecutor whose responsibility it is to make filing decisions has received paltry or erroneous information in the police report, your lawyer might try to weigh in on that fact.
The misinformation might be caused by misstatements made by eyewitnesses or the alleged victim(s), among other reasons. Either way, a good defense attorney will be expert at pretrial communications with the prosecutor, and that would be a good time to bring up the misinformation in the preliminary police report.
Sometimes, your lawyer will be able to intervene before any files are charged. But more likely than not, they won’t be able to get involved before charges are filed. That doesn’t mean that the case has to proceed. You might still avoid trial.
Have a thorough client – attorney meeting. By that we mean go into detail regarding your past interactions with the alleged victim(s). If your attorney wants to investigate the issues further, she or he might seek witness declarations.
Again, this doesn’t mean the case has to go to trial. What might happen, instead, is that the prosecutor is presented with the information that your attorney has uncovered, in an effort to convince the prosecutor to drop or dismiss charges.
Another alternative to a trial might be to sit back and wait (upon your lawyer’s advice, of course). When the prosecution finds that they simply don’t have the evidence required to convict, this may result in a dismissal of charges.
What Do You Mean By “Don’t Have The Evidence”? Could You Explain?
Certainly. Let’s say that, after several months of thinking it over, the victim “recants”, or decides that they want to withdraw their statement.
Too, sometimes it is discovered by the prosecution that statements can’t be relied upon as credible.
Finally, there are cases where “your side” wins a pre-trial motion or a preliminary hearing. In some cases, after this, the prosecutor decides that he or she will not refile charges.
Hmm. What If I Am Not Sure That I Want To Hire The Attorney Who Is Eager to Work On My Case?
Don’t be pressured into signing on the dotted line, as it were. And if you DO make a hasty decision to hire an attorney, because you feel that you need someone to stand by your side immediately, remember that you can always use one attorney who represents you in the beginning of the process, and then switch, if you need an attorney later on, as well.