Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chicago Criminal lawyer thinks the accused should know the consequences of a "deal"

This Chicago Criminal lawyer wants to remind you that you have an obligation to ask your lawyer questions.  I get phone calls and letters regularly from people who plead guilty and now, well past the 30 day point-of-no-return regret their plea and wish to change it.

Yesterday, I was at 26th & California, the Criminal Courthouse.  One of my clients was on the prisoner call because a warrant had been executed. It took me a while to get into lock-up while the judge was on the bench because one of the sheriffs wanted to see my ID after I’d already entered the fortress . 

My client asked me a host of questions.  He was ready to conclude his case if I was able to get the judge to accept the time he already had in custody as enough punishment.  Everyone, in Cook County jail, especially those who are there unexpectedly (like a warrant for their arrest) wants out of the jail yesterday.  There’s a huge problem with this immediate and urgent desire.  Even as a plea is explained to the accused by the lawyer; then signed by the accused, in the form of a jury waiver; and then presented to a judge (in open court with a court reporter typing every breath drawn) who in turn repeats all of the admonishments related to a jury waiver, all the accused can think about is getting out of jail.  The idea that this plea will generate criminal background and/or that criminal background can make it extraordinarily difficult to get a job (or keep a job) or live in any community you like falls on largely deaf ears. 

All of the collateral consequences may very well be discussed, and recently the U.S. Supreme Court even ruled that some collateral consequences must be discussed with the accused before accepting a plea of guilty.  That said it may not be in one’s best interest to plead guilty and get out of jail now.  It does require you to ask your lawyer questions that may very well go past your immediate future of getting out of jail.

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