By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
We were all taught to take responsibility for our actions when we were children. We are internally programmed that we will be rewarded by coming clean by fair treatment and a clean conscience.
The Leap of Faith
Taking responsibility for your actions is a leap of faith. You are trusting that when you take responsibility you will be treated fairly and justly by those in authority. Parents and teachers hopefully always treated you fairly when you owned-up to a mistake. They made the punishment fit the crime and they put your mistake in perspective.
This doesn’t always happen in the criminal justice system. The state or government’s version of responsibility may be drastically more cruel or harsh than you might think. Thus, taking the ‘leap of faith’ that you will be dealt with fairly doesn’t always work out.
Understanding The Disconnect
Knowing why the state’s version of justice and our own is so far apart can be complex question. The three most common answers I can think of are as follows:
(1) Some times the law just isn’t fair. Police and prosecutors are bound by the law… and those laws are created by our legislature… and our legislature is comprised of politicians who probably didn’t campaign on being easy on crime.
(2) Some prosecutors and judges can be misguided. Many have never defended anyone accused of a crime so they don’t understand the fears, emotions and worries of criminal defendants or their families. In their defense most do their best to empathize… they’ve just never walked in a defense lawyer’s shoes.
(3) Jurors sitting on a case have never been in trouble themselves. Many tend to think someone in trouble is in trouble for a reason. They think because someone made different choices than they would have made, they deserve to be punished harshly.
Why You STILL Need a Lawyer
You need an advocate who knows the mind-set of the people making crucial decisions. This goes for plea negotiations, dealing with judges and the occasional trial where the only debate is what is a fair punishment. An effective lawyer can translate your fears, worries, and problems to the prosecutor, Judge or Jury in a way which turns them into an ally instead of an enemy.
Sometimes we have to get a Not Guilty verdict because of the collateral consequences of a conviction. This can include situations where we are concerned about a divorce/ custody situation, professional licensing or immigration consequences. Often those charged with the crime don’t understand the full implications of their guilty plea in other areas of their life. This is precisely why they need a lawyer who knows the broader view.
Putting the State to Its Burden
Just because you’re guilty doesn’t mean you still can’t fight for an acquittal. There is nothing illegal, immoral, or dishonest about pleading not guilty and having a trial. What you accomplish here is keeping the system — and those in it — honest.
Police and prosecutors would have everyone believe they do a good job on big cases because they’re the good-guys in the blind pursuit of justice. Human nature tells us even though that may be mainly true — they will also do a good job if they know their homework is being graded. Isn’t that we all want anyway?
The framers of the Constitution knew how to keep their government in check, didn’t they?