Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WHAT A CRIMINAL LAW ATTORNEY CANNOT DO

In most criminal cases, an experienced attorney can help you make the best strategic choices for your defense. But no attorney can guarantee that you will fully escape punishment.

When you are charged with a crime, the state has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A criminal defense attorney generally knows what the state will need to meet that burden. Did the police officers have probable cause to stop you? Did the police give you the appropriate warnings at the appropriate time? Can the state prove each element of the crime? Should a judge or jury disregard some evidence based on Illinois case law? For example, is some evidence more inflammatory than helpful in to proving the charges against you?

A qualified attorney can look at the evidence and advise you about your best options. Do you have a fightable case? Will you need to accept a plea bargain? Is there something you can do, such as attend a drug rehabilitation program, to get a more advantageous plea bargain?

What an attorney cannot do is change the facts of your case. If you are caught red-handed with narcotics, an attorney can look for loopholes in the state’s case but cannot change the fact that you were caught with the evidence.

An attorney cannot guarantee an outcome in a case. The attorney can help navigate the case in order to obtain a more favorable outcome, but can never fully guarantee that “you will get off.”

An attorney cannot make decisions for you. An attorney can advise you on the pros and cons of various options, such as whether to plead guilty or go to trial. But only you can decide the risks you are willing to take.

An attorney cannot select or control the judge. By having familiarity with a particular judge, an attorney may strategize the most persuasive way to present your defense. But ultimately, the judge makes any decision based on what the judge thinks is important.

The bottom line is that sometimes if you are guilty of a crime and the evidence is loaded against you, you may have to take the consequences. Sometimes that can mean going to jail. An attorney can help make sure that procedures are correctly followed and that your rights are protected. An attorney can look for ways to fight your case or help you get a better deal. But if the state can meet its burden of proof, an attorney cannot wave a magic wand and make your case go away.

If you have questions about a criminal law matter, please feel free to contact Matt Keenan at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com or 847-568-0160.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves clients in the communities of Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Palatine, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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