4 BIGGEST MISTAKES MADE BY CRIMINAL DEFENDANTS

So there you are, sitting in your living room reading a letter from your attorney that says something like this,

“Criminal charges have been filed against you in case #:11130098. Be advised that ‘Utah’ judges are rarely bound by determinative sentencing guidelines. In other words, your judge has the discretion to sentence you within the basic sentencing guidelines as indicated below with few exceptions:”

As you look below to what the letter was referring to, you see a list that certainly does not make you happy in the slightest.

  • Class C misdemeanor……….0 to 90 days jail
  • Class B misdemeanor……….0 to 180 days jail
  • Class A misdemeanor……….0 to 365 days jail
  • Third Degree Felony…………0 to 5 years prison
  • Second Degree Felony………1 to 15 years prison (no jail is possible with most)
  • First Degree Felony………….5 years to life in prison (no jail is possible with some)

Considering these guidelines you must do whatever is necessary to justify a minimum sentence. Understand that having the right lawyer on your side will help you to do just that. You also want to avoid doing anything that would justify a maximum sentence.

Here are some mistakes to avoid:

1. Talking too Much During an Investigation and in Court – When you are accused it is a natural response to attempt to explain yourself. If you are accused, you should never attempt to speak to a prosecutor, a police officer, or a judge about the facts in your case. It is always best to have a a good criminal defense attorney telling you what to say and when to say it from the very beginning in your case. Otherwise, say nothing at all.

2. Failure to Hire a Qualified Attorney – An inexperienced attorney is unlikely to know how to get the most out of any of the strengths to your defense, or how to down-play any weaknesses. An experienced private criminal defense attorney will know how to deal with these complex issues.

3. Failure to Make Adequate Sentencing Preparations – Many defendants are inadequately prepared at sentencing. Favorable sentencing factors and circumstances can be provided under the direction of a good defense attorney. In some cases, creating these circumstances can be the difference between years in prison and no jail at all.

4. Poor Defense Strategy – The wrong strategy can increase jail time. Conversely a good defense strategy can make all the difference in whether or not you go to jail.

As we return to reality for just a moment and take a deep breath, we need to realize that such letters are read every day in the State of Utah, and in this country. These 4 basic mistakes are also the mistakes that are made every day by those accused of crimes, whether they are guilty or not. All of us have seen those cases on the news where celebrities are paying major money for their representation. Paying thousands of dollars an hour to an attorney does not guarantee freedom and certainly does not assure a “premier” case preparation to ensure you’re taken care of. Knowing something about the system and how to “behave” during any case will take you quite far in some instances; add that to your lawyers “quality and expertise” and you can have serious chances of either walking away or getting a lesser conviction.

So whether you have received such a letter in the past or are reading one right now, the principles are still the same. Knowledge is your power and having the right attorney for your needs is the key to using that power correctly.

Be smart, be safe and call us when you need us!

Rhome Zabriskie

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