Why fall on a sword, when nothing worse is risked by fighting?
Numerous times, some colleagues scratch their heads about why I will not recommend my client to plead guilty when a probation-only sentence looks like a good bet, and when a guilty plea will get me out of court more quickly so that I will have more time for my next client (or, perhaps, to contemplate my navel). My response is: Why fall on a sword, when nothing worse is risked by fighting? Many times I have obtained victories for clients with this approach. Moreover, many clients have no choice but to plead innocent when obtaining a conviction will violate probation or parole, or will harm their security clearance status, employment, or immigration status. Additionally, each conviction risks jail for any future probation violations and will increase the risk of higher sentences for any future convictions. Finally, the prosecutor always has the burden to try to convict a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt; defendants and their lawyers have no obligation to help police or prosecutors do their job, and have every obligation to fight for the least possible harm for their clients within a realistic, intelligent, and thorough risk analysis.
Here is a case in point about not falling on a sword when nothing worse is risked by fighting. Recently, I was in court for a drunk driving case in another county, so I asked a local lawyer some things about the judge, and he ended by saying: “This judge will be happy to bind himself on the sentence before a guilty plea is entered.” I replied: “Who is talking about a guilty plea? My client is going to trial.” He responded: “Why go to trial if the prosecutor is offering a guilty plea to the lesser charge a favorable recommended sentence?” In the same courtroom was another colleague who shook his head about the judge I had, not because he is a harsh sentencer, but because “He’s tough to obtain an acquittal from.”
As it turned out, when my case was called before the judge, the prosecutor’s witnesses were present, but one of them had to leave for a scheduling conflict The judge ultimately granted the postponement, but only after I made my record to help prevent the prosecutor from getting any further postponements.
Particularly with the case having been postponed over my strong objection, what good would have come from my client’s entering a guilty plea that day? The next time we come to court, who knows if one of the prosecutor’s witnesses again will be unavailable? If that happens, and if the prosecutor’s postponement request is denied, we win, most likely through a dismissal.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz pursues your best defense against Virginia DUI, felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. Choosing your right attorney can make all the difference for your case outcome. Call Jon Katz’s staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule your free initial in-person confidential consultation about your court-pending case.