“The police know I’m guilty. I know I’m guilty. Why do I need an attorney?” Because, at the very least, experienced defense counsel will tear apart prosecution’s evidence and analyze it for factors that could limit your sentencing exposure. Experienced criminal defense counsel may identify technical issues, such as constitutional violations, that you would miss in your case. Those issues could prevent conviction in an otherwise strong prosecution. Moreover, defense counsel is better positioned to recognize the extent of your sentencing liability and discover and exploit weaknesses in the prosecution in negotiating a beneficial resolution.
“I’m pretty sure I am going to cooperate with the police. Why do I need an attorney?” The answer is because only a skilled criminal defense lawyer can tell you whether cooperation is likely to be in your best interest and advise you regarding what cooperation means and the very real risks that it entails. Facing a criminal investigation is deeply personal and undoubtedly will cloud your ability to identify and reasonably assess the pros and cons of cooperating. The measured and objective advice of criminal defense counsel is based on years of experience with the prosecutors, the police, and the judicial system with which you have become entangled. Defense counsel usually will not allow their clients to speak to the police until the police disclose what evidence they have against the client, giving an advance look at what you are facing.
“I have a warrant out for my arrest. What should I do?” The answer to that hurts in the present sense, but not as much as it would, unanswered, in the future. If there is an arrest warrant, you undoubtedly will be facing a judge on bail, maybe not today, but real soon. The prosecutor will argue two issues: risk of flight (not appearing for court) and danger to the community. You have no duty to turn yourself in on an arrest warrant. However, if you do turn yourself in, you are much more likely to be released because you have proven you are not going to flee justice and have surrendered yourself without retaliating against witnesses, etc. Before turning yourself in, speaking with a criminal defense attorney will give you crucial knowledge as to your constitutional rights and what you can expect in terms of bail and other court processes.
“I was convicted of a crime and have fallen behind on fines and/or restitution payments. I have not heard from the court in some time. What should I do?” There is always a small chance that your paperwork has been lost in the Clerk’s office, but the overwhelming likelihood is that an arrest warrant has or will soon be issued. And there is never a good time to be arrested on a warrant. On the other hand, fine and restitution warrants are expensive for the courts and the sheriff. A judge would much prefer to listen to your explanation and set up a new payment plan rather than issue a warrant. Be aware that this issue is handled differently from court to court. If you just walk in and ask the clerk to see the judge, you may be told that fine issues are handled on another day as you are arrested on the warrant. It would be best to call the Clerk’s office to see if there is a special time set aside each week or each month for you to ask for new payment arrangements.