Fact or Fiction: If You Plead Guilty, Can You Expect to Receive Mercy from the Court?
Interviewer: What if I feel that I’m guilty or believe that I’m guilty and I know what I’ve done. Should I just throw myself at the mercy of the court, or should I fight the charges?
It Is Always Advisable to First Retain an Attorney
Jack O’Donnell: You should always hire an attorney. The attorney can first determine whether or not the State’s got enough evidence to convict you. If they don’t have enough evidence then we work to get the charges dismissed.
If the State won’t agree to that, we proceed to a trial or hearing. But if we feel like the State does have enough evidence and you don’t want to risk going to a hearing or a trial, then we try to work out the best deal possible.
Is an Individual’s Character a Factor When the Judge Imposes a Sentence?
Interviewer: Would it help my case if I’m “a good person”, or have a family and have never been in trouble before?
Jack O’Donnell: Yes, it helps. I just got back from a sentencing where the client was a dog walker for a family for seven years and had never been in trouble. He was 44 years old, had a wife and children but he stole $48,000 worth of jewelry and the family never got it back because he pawned it. He had no prior criminal record, but the Judge felt that it was just such an awful thing that he did to betray the trust and deprived this family of sentimental items, that she gave him 18 months in jail.
She could have imposed a lot more jail time, but chose to only give him 18 months.
Interviewer: Why would someone make a choice to do that?
Jack O’Donnell: The Judge assumed it was drugs but it wasn’t. It was that he got himself into a financial hole and it became a crime of opportunity. The debt was making him feel crazy, “How am I going to pay this mountain of bills?” Then suddenly, all this jewelry and other valuable items were staring him in the face. That is an example of when good people can do bad things.