The 4 Decisions Which Belong to the Client

By Allen, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Kyle T. Therrian
Office Number: (972) 562-7549
24 Hr Jail Release: (214) 403-6522

The role of an attorney in a criminal case is that of an advisor and an advocate. As an advisor, an attorney must give the client straightforward advice expressing the lawyer’s honest assessment of a case. It is the job of the attorney to gather, review, and ultimately dissect the evidence based on any legal issues that are present. In this sense, the attorney acts as an interpreter for his client. The attorney does not invent nor can he change facts; but it is his duty to explain the significance of facts, even when they are unpleasant or difficult to confront. As an advocate, the attorney creates options for the client. An attorney can be an advocate on behalf of his client when negotiating with a prosecutor or when trying a case before a judge or jury. The attorney can create forks in the road and should explain where each fork leads but cannot make the decision which path to take.

In any criminal case the client must make decisions which sometimes have far-reaching and irrevocable consequences. An attorney can make sure that the decision-making process is well-informed but ultimately there will always be four decisions which can only be made by the client, and the client alone.

1. The Decision to Plead Guilty or Not-Guilty

This decision is one which was secured by our founding fathers in the Bill of Rights. The Sixth Amendment gives every person the right to a trial by jury in a criminal prosecution. If the law placed the responsibility for making this decision into the hands of the attorney representing a person accused, it would be denial of the client’s rights under Sixth Amendment. It is also very logical that this decision belong to the client because it is the life of the client that is affected by the decision.

2. The Decision Whether to Have a Judge or Jury Trial

This decision is also part of the Sixth Amendment rights of the accused. The Sixth Amendment does not just guarantee the right to a trial; it guarantees the right to a trial by jury. The jury is a cornerstone of our justice system which stands as a check and a balance on the power of government. While our system places extraordinary importance on this right, it does not mean that there are not sometimes advantages to having a judge hear the facts and determine guilt in a case; for instance, when facts are have complex legal significance. An attorney can point out when a trial before a judge would be advantageous, but cannot make the ultimate decision.

3. The Decision Whether to Testify

A different Amendment to the Constitution provides the client with the right not to testify in a criminal case. The Fifth Amendment provides that a person shall not be compelled to be a witness against himself. The reasons for the Defendant to not testify in a criminal case are plentiful enough to justify a separate discussion on the subject. Suffice it to say, even 200 years ago, the founders recognized the trouble in having the accused take the stand and prove their innocence. Of course, there are times when it can be beneficial for a Defendant to testify on his own behalf. If a criminal prosecution reaches the point of a trial, the client will ultimately have to decide whether he wishes to take the stand.

4. The Decision Whether to have a Judge or Jury for Punishment

If an individual is found guilty of the offense for which he is charged the Sixth Amendment right to a jury extends to the determination of punishment as well. In Texas a person convicted of a crime may choose waive that right and to have a judge determine punishment. Like each of the previous decisions, there can be costs and benefits with either option but the options. An attorney should help his client weigh these options but cannot force his client to choose either.

*Kyle Therrian is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice on any case you should contact an attorney directly.

Speak Your Mind