Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
As an experienced criminal defense lawyer practicing in Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha, I receive many calls each week from people wondering if they really need a criminal defense lawyer. You may not need to hire a criminal defense lawyer, but you should definitely consult with a criminal defense lawyer, especially because most criminal defense lawyers offer free consultations.
Whether you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer depends on your specific situation. But, generally, you are much better off hiring a criminal defense lawyer rather than trying to handle your situation on your own.
What Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do for Me?
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can do a lot for you. Nowadays, with personal and public information so readily available on the internet, almost anyone with a cell phone with internet access can see your criminal record, including non-criminal ordinance violations such as traffic tickets and municipal tickets.
Also, employers conduct extensive background checks on potential employees and can often see your entire criminal record, including whether you have had any convictions expunged from your record. So it is really important to keep your record as clean as possible, or for you to get your record expunged.
There are many alternatives to simply going to court by yourself and pleading guilty or no contest. For example, a criminal defense attorney may be able to persuade the prosecutor to offer you a deferred prosecution agreement or DPA.
A DPA is an agreement between you and the prosecutor pursuant to which you agree to do community service or complete a treatment program while your case is pending and, in exchange, the prosecutor dismisses the case. Dismissing the case means you will not have any type of conviction on your record.
A criminal defense attorney may also be able to convince the prosecutor to amend a charge to something that would look better on your record. For example, a conviction on your record for Retail Theft will likely make it difficult to obtain employment because employers will see a conviction for Retail Theft on your record and not want to hire you because a conviction for Retail Theft implies dishonesty and, of course, stealing.
Many employers will not want to hire someone who steals because that person may steal from the employer in the future. However, a criminal defense attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to amend a Retail Theft charge to Disorderly Conduct, which would look much better than Retail Theft on your record to employers because Disorderly Conduct does not necessarily involve stealing or any type of dishonesty.
Only a prosecutor, not a judge, can amend a charge. So going into court by yourself and asking the judge to amend a charge will not work. An experienced attorney should be able to get you a much better deal from the prosecutor than you could get on your own.
There are many other options for avoiding a criminal conviction and keeping your record as clean as possible. These options are different depending on which county your are charged in and which prosecutor is assigned to your case. A local attorney should know which options are available in your county and which options the prosecutor is likely to agree to.
How Do I Choose a Criminal Defense Attorney?
Choosing the right criminal defense attorney is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. If you hire the wrong attorney, you may end up with a criminal conviction on your record that can never be removed. You may also end up needlessly serving jail time, prison time, or a lengthy period of time on probation, because your criminal defense attorney was inexperienced and ineffective.
Before hiring a criminal defense attorney, check the attorney’s online reviews on the attorney’s Google+ Page. Google+ filters out fake or unreliable reviews, so you know that any reviews you see on the attorney’s Google+ Page are legitimate reviews from that attorney’s clients. Be wary of any attorney who has been in practice for a number of years and has only one or two reviews or no reviews at all.
Once you find an attorney with a number of good reviews on Google+, contact the attorney and ask the attorney if he or she has had any trial experience. Many attorneys are unable or unwilling to take cases to trial. Although you may not want to take your case to trial, hiring a lawyer who has trial experience is very important because prosecutors know which attorneys take cases to trial and which ones don’t.
Attorneys who do not take cases to trial almost never get great plea offers from prosecutors because the prosecutors know that the attorneys will not go to trial even if the prosecutor does not make a good plea offer. On the other hand, attorneys who have gone to trial in the past will often get better plea offers from prosecutors because the prosecutors know that attorneys who take cases to trial will not take a bad plea offer and will instead go to trial. This gives the prosecutor incentive to offer a good plea bargain or dismiss the case to avoid going to trial and possibly losing the case and tying up a lot of resources.
In Wisconsin, there is a website (CCAP) that provides public access to almost all of the cases in Wisconsin circuit courts. Your attorney should be able to show you a number of cases on CCAP where the attorney has gotten evidence suppressed, won a jury trial, and/or gotten an entire case dismissed, not just individual charges (because almost every plea offer involves dismissing some charges). CCAP lists the name of the attorney for each case, so you will be able to verify the attorney’s claims.
To get you the best outcome, you need to hire an attorney who has (1) taken more than two cases to trial and won more than two jury trials; (2) gotten evidence suppressed; and (3) gotten an entire case dismissed NOT as part of a plea bargain. A criminal defense attorney who has accomplished all of these things should be able to get you the best possible result for your case.
Call Criminal Defense Attorney Christopher Glinski for a free consultation at (414) 313-7918.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a lawyer about your specific case.