When someone hires a criminal defense attorney, one of the first facts the lawyer has to present to them is how difficult it is to truly "beat" a criminal charge. One study indicated that 94% of state and 97% of federal criminal cases will end in a plea agreement if full-on charges are brought. This may leave you wondering what it actually takes to beat a charge.
Don't Get Charged
It's easy to feel mocked by such advice, but it is serious advice. The best chance to beat a criminal case is when it's just an investigation and not a prosecution. Accomplishing this requires knowing what to say to the police and when to keep quiet. Even if you're 100% sure you're not the subject of an investigation, it's wise to have a criminal defense attorney present anytime you speak with the police, a prosecutor or any type of investigator. A small statement can lead to an investigation branching off to see what a witness did, for example. Pretty soon, that witness may be facing criminal allegations when they were just trying to be helpful.
Nip a Case in the Bud
The next best chance to beat back a criminal charge is when it's first brought in front of a judge. Preliminary hearings are an opportunity for defendants to hear what the state has against them. More importantly, it's the first time that a prosecutor has to tell a judge straight-on what the case is about and why they think you did something wrong. Evidence and testimony are often presented at these preliminary hearings. Your criminal defense attorney will have a chance to ask the police how they obtained evidence and what they thought proved they had probable cause for charging you. Casting doubt on the origins of the investigation is often the best way to nip a case in the bud.
Consider a Deal
Regardless of your instruction regarding how hard you want to fight a charge, your attorney has a legal and ethical obligation to present you with any plea deal the prosecution offers. Generally, if a case has made it out of preliminary hearings, the prosecution has enough evidence to convince a judge to move it to trial. A criminal defense attorney can certainly present your argument before a jury, but an ironclad case does beg for a defendant to at least consider entering into a plea agreement.
If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, speak with a criminal defense attorney near you.