Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Preventable Risk of Heedless Guilty Pleas

The American legal system is designed to accommodate both substantive and procedural due process - the respect of a person’s legal rights to guarantee him of fundamental fairness, justice, and liberty. The law affords a person the right to defend himself in court; in fact, regardless of all calculated assumption or evidence, a person is deemed innocent until or unless proven guilty (in criminal cases, beyond reasonable doubt).
So why on earth would anyone plead guilty at the outset of a legal lawsuit?
The overwhelming majority of criminal cases in the US, over 90% are resolved through guilty pleas rather than trials. In a host of these cases, due to poor representation or ill advice from their lawyer, defendants plead guilty without considering whether they have a winnable case or not . Reasons include Panic and/or allegedly poor legal advice, which unfortunately result to verdicts lesser favorable than what could possibly a good ruling.
Defendants face a choice between 1. risking a harsh sentence by taking a borderline case to trial and 2. guaranteeing themselves relative leniency by pleading guilty to a subset of charges against them. They most of the time do not understand the case and are entirely guided by defense counsels, who often are confused by juggling tremendously overwhelming caseloads all at the same time. Apparently, these decisions post significant and perhaps, lifetime risks that’s why if your person is on the line, a competent lawyer is a must!
The Craig and McTiernan stories told in the aforementioned article serve as useful reminders that this legal system involves plenty of sausage-making behind the scenes. To successfully understand and navigate through a case an aggressive, smart lawyer could utilize the ingenuity of guilty pleas, of bargaining, and one can expect him to deliver rough justice amidst the pressures on both the prosecutors and defendants. Yes, the high and mighty may be subject to these vagaries but careful, intelligent analysis – from a brilliant and outstanding lawyer of course - can seriously lower the risk of legal blunders.