No Guarantees in Criminal Defense

One of the most frustrating things for clients and their families is the fact that we cannot guarantee specific results: we can’t guarantee that charges won’t be brought, a not guilty verdict, or a light sentence.  Understandably, many new clients would like some form of a guarantee before retaining a lawyer’s services.  But when it comes to criminal defense, there are almost an infinite number of variables at play which preclude guaranteeing a specific result.

Variables Affecting a Guarantee

When dealing with criminal cases, the decision to charge an individual with a crime is vested solely with the district attorney of your county.  DA’s have broad discretion whether to issue charges, and if they do issue charges, which specific charges to file.  As such, you would be hard pressed to find a criminal defense attorney who would guarantee that charges won’t be filed.

You may have a very winnable case that goes to trial, but no attorney can guarantee a not guilty verdict.  When a case is tried to a jury, the State has to convince 12 people that you are guilty.  Even in cases where there are numerous arguments for a not guilty verdict, a defendant can be convicted if the 12 jurors are convinced of the defendant’s guilt.  Attorneys will talk for hours about cases they thought they should have won but ended up losing.  Therefore, it would be shocking for an attorney to guarantee victory at a trial.

When it comes to sentencing, judges in Wisconsin are not bound by the parties’ recommendations.  Rather, the judges are allowed to sentence defendants up to the maximum allowed under the law.  Even in “joint resolution” cases, where the defense and prosecution come to an agreement about what the appropriate sentence should be, judges are not bound by the recommendation.  So, similar to the district attorney’s decision to charge, no one can guarantee that a judge will impose a specific sentence.

One final caveat is that criminal defense attorneys are prohibited from accepting contingency fees.  Stated simply, a contingency fee can be described as follows:  “You don’t pay unless you aren’t charged” or “You don’t pay unless you receive less than 12 months jail.”  Be very wary of an attorney who quotes a fee that resembles one of the above scenarios.

What You’ll Hear Instead

Instead of a guarantee, we can explain what is likely to happen based on our experience working with a specific district attorney or at a sentencing hearing in front of the same judge.  We can explain that based on the facts of your case, “x” is a likely result.  We will also make clear what we hope to achieve and what we think could realistically happen.  So while a specific result will not be guaranteed, you will still know what you can expect to happen.

What can be guaranteed?

Even though specific results cannot be guaranteed, all our criminal defense attorneys guarantee that they will be dedicated to your case, no matter the size or complexity.  They will be responsive to all questions and concerns, and will work tirelessly to achieve the absolute best result for your individual case.  Contact us today for a free initial consultation!


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