How To Measure The Potential Success Of A Criminal Defense

Whenever a criminal attorney thinks about a client's defense, they also have to think about what might count as success. Yes, it is easy to understand that beating all the charges is one form of winning. However, you may need to take a slightly different look at measuring the outcome of a case. Especially in a world where many criminal cases end in deals, you may need to think about success in one of these four ways.

Minimizing or Avoiding Jail Time

The difference between one outcome and the next can be huge in criminal defense. For example, the gap between a conviction for felony criminal assault and one for disorderly conduct is likely the difference between going home or to jail at the end of sentencing.

If you're a first-time offender, you might even be able to convince the prosecutor and judge to buy into a plea involving a diversion program. In these cases, the defendant agrees to comply with some form of counseling. For example, someone facing a drug possession charge might agree to enter a substance use disorder program. Upon completion of the program and perhaps a year of keeping out of trouble, the judge would remove the charges from the person's record.

Keeping Professional Options

Sometimes, criminal convictions can prevent people from ever working in their chosen trades again. If a court convicts an accountant of criminal fraud, for example, that person might never be allowed to handle financial work in a position of trust for the rest of their life. A criminal attorney working with such a client might seek an outcome that requires restitution but allows the defendant to keep working in their field. Similar professional issues can hit doctors, contractors, financial advisors, military personnel, securities traders, and even lawyers.

Avoiding Additional Penalties

People think of criminal penalties as ending once someone has done their time and paid restitution and fees. However, picture what happens if a court convicts someone of certain forms of sexual assault. That person might have to register as a sex offender, leading to a lifetime of difficulties getting housing, seeking jobs, or even being around children or the elderly. A criminal attorney handling such a case will try to steer their client toward a less onerous outcome.

Maintaining a Right

Even protected constitutional rights can go out the window with a conviction. If a court sentences someone to jail for a violent offense involving a firearm, that person might lose the right to own a gun in the future. Similar penalties sometimes even involve ownership of knives or vehicles, and often for lesser offenses as well.