When a potential client comes in, charged with his first misdemeanor, and says, “I did what they’ve accused me of. They’ve got me. I don’t have any defense. I just want to plead guilty and take probation,” I will generally tell him something like this:
If that’s what you want, you should probably hire someone else. I come in to every case looking for a way to win it. Paying me just to get you probation would be a waste of your money and my talent. I won’t let you do it.
Sometimes people sitting in that chair change and saying what you’re saying change their minds and decide to hire me to try to find a way to beat their case or get them a better resolution than a probation that will stay on their record forever. When that happens — when they go ahead and hire me — about half the time I find a way to beat their case. Entirely.
This is true because I apply my creativity to every case.
You would be amazed at the many ways that the State’s case can fall apart when a defender investigates it and researches the law and uses his imagination. (For example, even with all its lawyers and all their computers the Harris County District Attorney’s Office manages to screw up virtually every charging instrument for criminal trespass.)
Even when the District Attorney’s office gets the charge right, often the cops leave holes big enough to drive a Mack truck full of reasonable doubt through. (In Houston, the constables are particularly liable to mess up an investigation.)
Even if the DA and the cops get everything right, the State often has to depend on civilian witnesses who aren’t getting a government paycheck and so often aren’t highly motivated to help the State put someone in jail.
DA’s errors, the cops’ omissions, and the witnesses’ reluctance are the sort of things that can make cases go away without a trial. But the lawyer who isn’t looking for every possible angle is not going to discover these gems. To find the problems that might make make the difference between a guilty plea and a win, a lawyer has to apply lots of time and imagination. That generally means the client generally has to apply lots of money.