Criminal defence solicitors - how do you sleep at night?
18 June 2017
Making the case for a guilty plea
Lawyers are often asked how we sleep at night - 'getting guilty people off'. We love answering that question and are happy to do so every time we meet someone new who finds out what we do for a living.
Another article will cover the huge subject of people being entitled to have the case proven against them by the state, however I'd like to explain here about mitigation. If your lawyer decides that there is strong and unequivocal evidence against you, she or he will advise you about credit for pleading guilty. Credit takes the form of a sliding scale of reduction in sentence, ranging from a third off at the first appearance where it was reasonable to do so, up to no credit (unless in exceptional circumstances) during the trial. Whilst credit for pleading guilty does start at court, judges will take into account full confessions made at the police station, on the grounds that it may prevent expensive and time consuming investigations, or achieve the return of property or prevent harm to someone etc.
Sometimes it might just be about avoiding prison
Next will come the mitigation stage, of which an early plea of guilty is a compelling start. We encourage clients to obtain references from people who have known them for some time, work references and medical reports. We will gather those documents and send them to the judge ahead of the sentencing hearing so they can be read and considered. This encourages the judge to think about who they are dealing with. It humanises the defendant and might, just might, make sending them to prison more difficult and thereby open up other sentencing options, such as a suspended sentence or a community order.
A recent client of mine avoided prison even though he was in breach of a suspended sentence for the exact same charge as the new one. The letters we gathered from housing and doctors supported his mitigation and I can only assume that they, together with an excellent advocate, made all the difference.
Good legal advice is good legal advice, whether it's about pleading not guilt or guilty.