by Douglas Ridley, Attorney at Law
The Honest Answer is that You May Not Need an Attorney
If you have been arrested for a crime, you have gone through something very difficult. Many attorneys will prey upon your fears and convince you that you need an attorney when you really don’t need one.
However, unless you have a law degree and have practiced criminal law for several years, you probably are not the best qualified person to decide whether you need an attorney or not. Your case might be the most basic, slam dunk case in the history of legal jurisprudence, or it might have significant problems with it that a good attorney can use to your benefit.
If You Do Not Use an Attorney
If you do not use an attorney, you will go into court, and the judge will ask you several questions to make sure that you know what you are getting yourself into. The judge will advise you of how much jail time you will receive for your case, and what other punishment you will receive. The judge may advise you that you should speak to an attorney before pleading guilty on your case. I have talked to people who had planned to just go into court and plead guilty, but the judge told them to call an attorney first. Sometimes, I have advised them that an attorney would not make a difference in the amount of jail or other punishment they would receive. But sometimes I have shown them a way to get off the hook, making a huge difference in what happens to them.
Going to Jail or Getting a Reduced Sentence?
Even if you believe that you are 100% guilty of what you are accused of, there still is a very good reason to consult with an attorney. I have a client who punched a guy in the face in a bar. He is 100% guilty. However, the prosecutor wants him to serve five years in the state prison as a punishment. This is a case where an attorney makes a dramatic difference between going to jail for a long time or getting a reduced sentence. An experienced attorney can evaluate the case and find holes in the charges. A lawyer who is creative can discuss alternatives with the prosecutor and shave some time off the jail sentence.
Discuss the Consequences Free of Charge
Most of the best attorneys will give you a free consultation on your case with no obligation. The bottom line is that you, as a recent arrestee, most likely do not have the experience to know what the best thing is to do on your case. You can discuss the possible consequences with an attorney free of charge, and get some ideas about what you might be facing in court. An attorney cannot guarantee any result, and most likely will not be able to review police reports until you have officially appeared in court. However, an experienced attorney will be able to point you in the right direction. And an honest attorney will tell you if you really need a lawyer for your case. Before you plead guilty and get sent to jail, you might want to call an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process.
Douglas Ridley is a former Ventura County Deputy District Attorney. Specializing in DUI, he practices criminal defense throughout the Southern California area. You may find an attorney at the State Bar of California website.
Last updated: 09/25/2013