The Lesser Crime
The American Criminal Justice System places immense power in the hands of the prosecutor.
Clients often ask, “doesn’t the judge decide my case?” More often than not, the answer is no. A Judge’s power in a criminal case is more limited than the power of the prosecutor. First, in most cases, it is the prosecutor that decides whether a person is charged with any crime at all. Next, with any given factual scenario there often are multiple potential criminal laws the prosecutor can choose from when making the decision of which crime or crimes to charge. The prosecutor decides how many criminal charges to bring and whether the charges should be a felony level crime or a lesser crime, such as a misdemeanor crime.
Criminal defense lawyers are often asked, “what do you do if you know your client is guilty?” There are a number of answers to that question. For purposes of this short piece, one of the first answers is “guilty of what?” This is where the criminal defense lawyer needs to educate the inquisitor on the incredible power of the prosecutor when deciding which crime or crimes to charge. Is what the client did really a crime, and if so, is it the same crime that the prosecutor is trying to convict them of? Is there a more appropriate, lesser crime that better fits the facts of the situation? One of the many functions of the criminal defense lawyer is to vigorously advocate for their client when they may in fact clearly be guilty of a crime, but not the crime or crimes that are being alleged by the prosecutor. In the end, the function of the prosecutor is not to get a conviction but to pursue justice.
Sieben & Cotter takes a pragmatic approach and vigorously fights to ensure that even if our client did commit a crime that they are only held accountable for the lesser crime that better fits the facts and the person we represent. Sieben & Cotter represented clients in three recent jury trials where the prosecutor vigorously fought to have our client convicted of very serious felony crimes. These crimes included Manslaughter, Kidnapping, Terroristic Threats, and Witness Tampering. In each situation, the prosecutor wanted to have the client committed to prison. In all three cases the incidents were vividly captured on video camera. Our team worked hard to have the court instruct the jury on the lesser misdemeanor crime that they could consider in each case when determining whether the prosecutor had proven its case on all of the charges separately beyond a reasonable doubt. The citizen jury only found our client guilty of the lesser crime in each of the cases and saved our clients from being convicted felons and from going to prison.
Whether you face state or federal charges, our law office can help you navigate the legal system. We will listen to your story and provide a comprehensive consultation at no charge.