Except in extremely rare circumstances, criminal defense cases do not go down like they do on television. Still, it’s not uncommon for clients to why things aren’t like they are on Law & Order or The Good Wife. This is just one of many criminal defense myths that lawyers must dispel when working with a new client.
The truth is that navigating criminal law, your rights, and court proceedings can be complicated, and laws are constantly changing. A good criminal defense lawyer can help you through this confusing process and provide the best legal advice from their experience with and knowledge of the criminal justice system – but only if you first move past any misconceptions you might be holding.
To help you do this, below we have the truth behind 8 criminal law myths.
Myth: If your rights were not read to you, your case will automatically be dropped.
Fact: This is not guaranteed, though television programs often fuel this myth. Miranda v. Arizona was a landmark case that has seriously altered the legal landscape, but an officer will not be incriminated if he or she does not read your Miranda rights during every single step of a criminal charge.
The rules regarding your Miranda rights come into play if your rights were not read to you during a custodial interrogation. In that situation, any incriminating statements made by you will be thrown out and cannot be used against you. Your case, however, can still continue.
Myth: If you do not testify, your case will end in a guilty verdict.
Fact: This is not true and very much depends on your specific case. There are many factors that could prove your innocence or result in a dropped case without you needing to testify. Remember, you have the right to remain silent during your case. Moreover, the jury cannot discuss the reasons and intentions behind your decision not to testify while they are deliberating.
Myth: An alibi is an effective defense.
Fact: Having an alibi is a commonly suggested defense strategy, and they can prove quite effective, but having an alibi will not guarantee your innocence. To use an alibi defense, you have to prove the validity of your alibi. Oftentimes this includes the testimony of friends and witnesses, and the prosecution will most likely question their intentions and attempt to invalidate your evidence.
Myth: Police are always truthful about their position and involvement in a case.
Fact: If you ask an officer about their position, you may not receive a truthful answer. The same rule applies when asking an officer about the evidence or possible suspects involved in your case. Do not be surprised if information about a police officer’s identity and knowledge of a case is withheld from you before a trial.
Myth: If you are pleading guilty, you do not need a lawyer.
Fact: This is one of the most harmful myths. Your defense strategy should not solely rest on proving your innocence. There is much more to be communicated to a judge or jury beyond “I’m guilty” or “I’m innocent.”
Consulting with a defense lawyer will help you determine the best course of action before a trial or plea-bargaining. A defense lawyer can help to lessen your sentence or change your charge to a lower class felony, misdemeanor, or petty offense. Be sure to hire a criminal defense lawyer who has experience negotiating and defending clients who have pled guilty.
Myth: Defense lawyers are working with the State and do not have your best intentions in mind.
Fact: This is another very harmful myth, and it’s unclear exactly where it comes from. It is highly unethical for a defense lawyer to work with the intentions of helping anyone else but his or her client. While searching for a criminal defense lawyer, you should ask about his or her experience and recent results to get a clearer sense of their abilities and assuage your fears in this regard.
Myth: Your charges will appear on your record forever.
Fact: Do not lose the hope of having a clean criminal record. Expungement, or the sealing of your criminal record, is rare in Colorado, but there are some charges and convictions that can result in expungement.
Past controlled substances convictions, dismissed charges, and a charge for which you were not convicted may be expunged from your record. Often, juvenile cases can also be expunged. You can discuss these options with your criminal defense lawyer.
Myth: A conviction will result in the loss of many privileges.
Fact: Okay, this one is actually true. Criminal convictions often come with serious consequences. You may lose the right to receive public assistance or financial aid for college, be unable to vote, or be ineligible for a landlord license. You may also lose the right to possess a firearm. Different types of convictions have different consequences, so it is vital to understand the possible consequences related to your case.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.