Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney John Helms explains how a defendant or their loved one should always choose to hire the best defense lawyer possible because it often can greatly impact the defendant’s sentencing and future.
I was recently told by the family of a man accused of homicide that the family just wanted to have a lawyer appointed for their loved one for free because they believe he had already confessed. They did not think it would be worth it to spend money for his defense because they thought he would be found guilty. I thought this was a serious mistake. The reason is that a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer can often make a huge difference in making sure the defendant’s punishment is just.
In every felony case in Texas in which a defendant is convicted, the punishment can vary significantly. In state courts in Texas, defense lawyers and prosecutors can negotiate plea agreements in which the sentence is agreed. The lawyer cannot make an agreement on behalf of the defendant. Only the defendant can agree to it, but a defendant should want a defense lawyer who will fight hard to negotiate the best possible deal for them. This often involves presenting facts and legal theories to the prosecutor that either makes the prosecutor less confident in their case or that makes the defendant seem more sympathetic.
In state court in Texas, it is possible for either a judge or a jury to decide punishment even if the defendant does not contest guilt. This happens when the defendant wants to plead guilty, but the defense and the prosecutor cannot agree on what the sentence should be. When a judge decides the sentence without a plea agreement, we call this “going open” to the judge. When a jury decides, we call it a “slow plea.” In either case, the procedure is like a mini-trial. This means that the defendant needs a skilled trial lawyer with a fighter mindset to make sure that the sentence is the lowest possible sentence, whether the judge or the jury decides what it will be.
I often feel that I do my best work trying to seek justice for a client at sentencing. This is because it can be a challenge to defend someone who admits they are guilty. It is easy for a prosecutor to criticize someone who broke the law. It is harder for defense lawyers to put themselves into the mindset of making persuasive arguments on behalf of a guilty person to a judge or a jury who may be angry at the person for committing a crime or hurting someone. That is where experience and skill come in.
If you or a loved one has committed a crime in Texas, do not think that you do not need a great criminal defense lawyer just because guilt is obvious. That may be the time when you need a great criminal defense lawyer in Dallas the most.
Attorney John Helms – Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer