A common question is how criminal lawyers defend guilty clients.
People often think lawyers use technicalities or loopholes.
Some assume most accused criminals face severe charges.
However, strict rules guide lawyers’ conduct in such situations.
Can a Criminal Lawyer Defend Someone They Know is Guilty?
Criminal lawyers can defend guilty clients as long as they don’t lie or mislead the court.
The Law Society of New South Wales oversees legal professionals’ conduct and ethics.
If you admit guilt, your lawyer can still represent you.
However, if you plead ‘not guilty,’ they can challenge the prosecution’s evidence but can’t deny your involvement outright.
Can Lawyers Refuse to Defend Someone?
Lawyers can refuse to defend someone if there’s a court-approved reason, like a conflict of interest or lack of expertise.
Once they start, they usually can’t stop without a valid cause.
If a client admits guilt but pleads not guilty, the lawyer can continue but can’t deny the confession or set up an inconsistent case.
They can challenge the evidence instead. If the client denies guilt, the lawyer must stop representing them.
How Can a Criminal Lawyer Defend Someone They Think is Guilty?
Criminal lawyers can defend clients they believe are guilty because they focus on “legal guilt” versus “factual guilt.”
Their role isn’t to judge but to provide a robust defense.
The legal system presumes innocence until guilt is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a high standard for convictions.
Lawyers ensure the prosecution meets this standard, regardless of their client’s perceived guilt.
If a person decides to plead guilty, your criminal lawyer can undertake the following actions to obtain the best outcome:
- negotiating with police to reduce the number charges. This can involve the ‘rolling up’ of a number of sequences;
- negotiating with the prosecution for less serious charges. For example, a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm can sometimes be reduced to a common assault charge. Likewise, a drug supply offence can be reduced to drug possession;
- amending the fact sheet to minimize the details of the offence.
Taking these steps greatly improves your chances of reducing your sentence.
Options like a section 10 dismissal or conditional release, which avoids a criminal record, become more possible.
A lawyer can help gather character references, apology letters, and medical reports.
Participating in rehabilitation programs, especially for drug/alcohol offenses, and enrolling in traffic offender programs for traffic offenses, can be advantageous.
Pleading Not Guilty
If you’ve confessed guilt but want to plead not guilty, it’s advisable to hire new lawyers.
Your current lawyer can only challenge the prosecution’s evidence, not assert your innocence.
Ethical standards prohibit lawyers from presenting false facts or arguments they know are untrue.
Experienced criminal lawyers usually withdraw in such situations, emphasizing the importance of having a lawyer who genuinely advocates for your defense.