While discussing Blondie, she has another installment of things she wished her clients knew, this time about double jeopardy. So what do I wish my clients knew? I wish my clients knew some of the rules of evidence. For example, I cannot count how many times I've heard, "But they have no evidence against me." By this, the client means there's no DNA, fingerprints, or other 'physical' evidence. However, as I explain to them, eyewitness testimony is evidence. So the fact that someone says that the client did it is enough, usually, to make them go through trial.
I wish my clients knew that their own statements, as a party opponent, are NOT hearsay, but instead are played and discussed many, many times throughout trial. Remember: you have the right to remain silent. EXERCISE THAT RIGHT! Police can and will lie to you to get you to talk and this is not only accepted, it is encouraged. Thus, do not believe them when they tell you that you need to cough it up to get a lighter sentence.
I wish my clients knew that they do not have to consent to a search of their person, car or premises. Here's a general tip good for anybody reading this: if a police officer asks you, "Can I look through your car, or your house, or your hotel room, or whatever", the answer should always be "Absolutely NO." If they threaten to get a warrant, then tell them to get a warrant. In Alaska, they're taping you anyway, so don't explain, don't justify, don't talk. Just tell them that you refuse to consent to any search.
I wish my clients knew that the system truly does not care about them, particularly if they are charged with a serious offense. No, the DA does not care if she breaks up your family. No, the judge does not really care about the hardships that the prison sentence will impose on your career. No, arguments appealing to pity, sympathy, or human understanding generally go nowhere (I say generally because every once in a while, it works out that way, but by and large, it doesn't). As such, while I understand and sympathize with your plight, if I seem to ignore the emotionally appealing aspects of your case, it is not because I have no pity. It is not because I don't care. Rather, it is because it is a waste of time and effort, time and effort that would be better spent preparing your case for trial, motion work, or sentencing, as the case may be.
I wish my clients knew that being right is no guarantee that they will prevail in court, that sometimes, despite all of our best efforts, life is not fair.
I wish my clients knew that I truly do not like giving them bad news, that I do not like telling them that they face a realistic possibility of dying in jail. I wish that they knew that when I tell them that they should take a plea, it is not because I am overbooked, or afraid to go to trial, or that I am paid by the State. Rather, it is because I've done this a lot and I have a pretty good idea based on the evidence that the outcome at trial is much more likely to be worse than the plea bargain, no matter how unpalatable that plea bargain offer is. And I take no joy in watching someone get a sentence substantially worse than the sentence offered as a plea bargain.
I think if my clients knew those things, the stress level for this job would go down. Maybe not a great deal, but enough to be noticeable. And I also wish to state that I am not thinking of any case in particular as I write this list, but more of a general, day-in, day-out type of situation of appointed counsel.