Should You Just Plead Guilty And Throw Yourself At The Mercy Of Court?
Interviewer: To ease up their guilt, should they throw themselves at the mercy of the court or should they fight the charges?
Zach Peagler: Well, it just depends from case to case, and it depends on what each individual client’s goals are. If they want to try to put the situation to bed and move on with their lives, and they can handle the penalties, then sometimes it is admirable for them to go ahead and accept responsibility, take their medicine, and move on, but sometimes circumstances just don’t warrant that as a possibility because they may be facing incredibly stiff penalties by taking responsibility, or there could be other reasons that they don’t want to talk. They could be implicating friends or family members in crimes, as well, and sometimes they don’t want to get other people in trouble.
On the flip side of that, sometimes it can greatly benefit their case if they’ve been involved in something that involves multiple defendants; oftentimes the state or the federal government will offer immunity to a defendant to provide information about another person who may have been more culpable in the crime.
We get cases with people where the information that they could provide to the government is way more beneficial to the government as a witness against another defendant than it is for the government to continue prosecuting them for the lower level crime that they may have committed.
That’s part of our job – to evaluate what they have been charged with. We inform them about what the penalties are. We inform them about what the government’s going to have to prove against them to find them guilty, and then help them through the decision-making process of whether some information that they possess may be valuable to the government, and it may help them in their case. Or, if they don’t have any valuable information, the best thing that they can do is to sit silently and let the process work itself out. Then you’ve also got cases that are just not black and white. Even if the person may think they’re guilty, there can be other evidence that could prove otherwise.
Interviewer: If someone’s granted some sort of immunity, what kind of immunity is it and does that matter based on if that person’s a good person, has a family, has never been in trouble before, or maybe like a first time offender?
Zach Peagler: All of those things come into play at some point in the process. Just because you’re a good person and haven’t been charged with a crime before doesn’t mean that you can’t have done something very bad this time, but at some point, whether it’s after you’ve admitted to the crime or been convicted, those things will come into play when the judge sentences you. From an immunity standpoint, on the front end, it can matter, but what your criminal history is often matters less. They’re more concerned about going with just what information you can provide them and how valuable it is.
We’ve represented people with pretty spotty backgrounds that have still received a high level of immunity because they have some very valuable information against people that had committed more serious crimes.
How Public Your Criminal Case Would Be?
Interviewer: How public is one’s case going to be, though? Is the family going to find out? What about their friends or work – things of that nature?
Zach Peagler: A lot of times it depends on the level of the crime. If you’ve been arrested for a traffic violation or DUI or a misdemeanor of any kind, the likelihood that it’s going to become a matter of publicity is slim. Now, if you’re some kind of high level official, a government employee, or a CEO of a large corporation or something, and you’re arrested for DUI, then there probably is a good chance that there’s going to be an article written in the newspaper about it, and you just have to deal with those things on a case-by-case basis.
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