Before making an important decision in the case, the client is entitled to know what alternatives are reasonable available, and the likely consequences of each. For example, assume that the client is charged with assault with a deadly weapon. The defense attorney tells the client, “The Prosecuting Attorney is willing to accept a guilty plea to simple assault and recommend a sentence of six months in jail and a fine of $500. The decision is yours – what do you want to do?” The client’s response should be, “What are my options and what are the likely consequences of each one.” The client and the attorney should readily identify at least three possible options:
Plead guilty now;
Plead guilty later; or
Refuse to plead guilty and go to trial.
Before making a decision, the client and attorney should discuss the likely consequences of each option. The client may ask questions such as:
“Is there a chance that I’ll get a better deal if I wait until close to the trial to plead guilty?”
“What sentence am I likely to receive if I go to trial and I’m convicted of assault with a deadly weapon?”
“I’m trying to get a job. Do you think a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon will look worse than one for plain assault?”
Criminal defense attorneys do not have a crystal ball. There is no way to predict or guarantee an exact outcome or consequence. The attorney will tell you, based on his experience, what you might expect and offer candid advice. He or she will also give you the best and worst case scenarios. Ultimately, though, it is the client who has to decide which way to go.