Federal Criminal Charges Usually Stick. Big Attorneys Charge Big Fees. Choose a Public Defender and Plead Out!
Highly paid trial lawyers can do little more than a public defender due to how the system works!
There are serious flaws in the legal system in this country. As system that was designed to give the benefit of the doubt and provide an environment of "innocent until proven guilty" simply no longer does so. Nowhere is this more blatantly apparent than in the relationship between defendants and trial lawyer who presumably are there to help those of us not trained in the law, to navigate the system.
I can only speak with authority based on my experiences. If something happens to me and I see it with my own eyes, feel it as real emotion, and learn from it whether good or bad, then I feel as if I can write about the experience in honesty and "let the chips fall where they may" regardless of who may be damaged in the process.
For years, I viewed trial lawyers with a certain degree of respect. After all many of them whom I had the occasion to meet were obviously successful, they had years if education and I presumed performed a valuable service to their clients. I had seen Perry Mason and my memories were of the cunning lawyer swooping in at the last minute to get his perplexed client off the hook by proving his innocence. That is how I thought it worked.
However, my experience of being charged with a Federal crime turned out quite differently. I started out pretty much par for the course I guess. As soon as I realized that I was in trouble and would be indicted, I did what most people would do. I went looking for a reputable criminal attorney. I found one with a stellar reputation and immediately arranged an appointment to see him. It pretty well went steadily downhill from there.
I did end up hiring him. Although, as I will explain later he ended up dropping my case. So I ended up hiring and paying huge sums of money to two different defense attorneys, trial lawyers as they represented themselves, only to be told at the last minute, that my best defense was to plead guilty and ask the court for mercy, an action that landed me a 44 month sentence, after I had been told repeatedly, that I had a case that could be won and even if lost, would only produce a sentence of some 18 months.
If you are unfortunate enough to be charged with a federal crime and find yourself where I was, I know that the basic instinctive act is to defend yourself especially if you feel that the charges are unjust. In truth sometimes they may be but also true, is the fact that if you end up on the radar of federal prosecutors your chances of winning are slim to none. The vast majority of Federal cases end in a plea of some kind, and, even more telling, is that the overwhelming majority of cases tried by the U.S. Attorney's office end in a conviction
The primary reason for this is that it is virtually impossible, no matter who you are to out wait or out spend the Federal government and my personal observation is that even if you happen to win once, even twice, or are fortunate enough to have one set of charges dropped, they will not give up and will keep coming and coming until they find a charge that sticks and achieve the desired result which is to put you behind bars.
Sadly, I have come to believe that it often has less to do with an assumption of guilt than it does with a desire to win. Let's face it, Federal prosecutors are human, have a job to do and are promoted on the basis of how well that job is done. The more convictions they obtain the better they look to their superiors.
Having been through the ordeal, I learned the truth but as I referenced earlier, the overwhelming swell of personal opinion out there, coming from those who were like me and know little of the inner workings of the legal system, is that you will be better represented by a lawyer to whom you write a big check? The hard truth is that is just incorrect in my experience.
The situation brings into question, in my mind, the validity of the old joke, "What is 10000 trial lawyers at the bottom ocean? A pretty good start." Don't get me wrong, the above was an attempt at levity, and I really don't believe that all lawyers are bad. I do however think that in a system that is so strongly tilted to the side that favors prosecutors, it simply makes little sense to pay outrageous fees to someone who, regardless of experience, credentials, etc., is essentially going to negotiate a deal for you to plead guilty based primarily on the facts of a case provided to him by the people you are paying him to defend you against.
There are of course, other factors that come into play, primarily the condition of your personal finances. The court is required to offer representation to those who are unable to pay and in such cases, who represents you is pretty much established anyway, but with people of means, you can be required to hire your own attorney whether you choose to do so or not. At least in my case, and again, I can only speak from experience but my financial statement was reviewed by the court before I was offered a court appointed lawyer, I even met with him, and I believe he was a good man. The of course, like a fool, I chose to borrow large sums of money from my family and in essence, throw it away on a defense attorney who had a "name". For the record that "name" did me little good.
My first lawyer, required a $10000 retainer and regular $10000 payments until the total reached $50000 before we even went to trial. When I informed him that I had no additional fund immediately available and it would be some time before I could pay him again, he promptly found a way to petition the court to allow him to drop my case, forcing me to seek yet another attorney.
You would think that given my experience the first time, at least serious consideration would have been given to a court appointed attorney which was again offered but I still believed that I would be better served to pay, and borrowing money from my then wife's mother, we found attorney number two and went a second round. The result was essentially same song, second verse, and after payment of a $10000 retainer, and a second payment of $8000, when I was all tapped out, bled dry, and couldn't produce any more funds, I was advised that I couldn't win, that I should plead and the rest is history.
As I heard the judge say 44 months on the day of my sentencing, I could believe my ears, $68,000 and countless assurances later that I would do very little time, 18 months maximum, I was headed away for nearly 4 years.
The truth is that any one of even the weakest and most inexperienced of public defenders could have brokered that deal, Probably better, and the public defender with whom I met, I have every confidence could have that well with his eyes closed. In the end I headed to prison with the harshest sentence that could have been handed down based on the Federal sentencing guidelines, having spent money I didn't have that could have helped to support my family while I was away.
I spent large sums in attorney fees because I really felt I wasn't guilty, I was ignorant of how the system works, and I genuinely believed that a "high powered" albeit, "high priced" attorney could and would prove my case in court and I would be exonerated. I have been wrong about many things in my life but never more wrong about anything than that.
My battle with Federal prosecutors was one hell of a ride and forever changed how I look at the legal system in this country. Suffice it to say that for me, It was a real eye opening experience that left a really bad taste in my mouth as far as attorneys go. If you are unfortunate enough to be charged with Federal crime, take my advice and do what is best for you and your family, ask for a public defender and work out a plea. It will, without question, save you, time, money, and much heartache.
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