A defendant who has done an act that has led to a criminal charge may wonder whether they should tell their attorney. Even if they remain silent, the defendant may be worried that the attorney will think that they are guilty, and won’t do a good job or won’t want to represent them at all.
The Alaska Criminal Law Handbook
The key feature of any criminal case in Alaska is that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime the defendant was charged with was actually committed. For example, if someone is charged with robbery and this is due to that person taking a woman’s purse when she is out in the street, the defendant is entitled to be acquitted if the victim is unable to positively identify the person.
Factual guilt compared to legal guilt
What is important is the difference there is between factual guilt, which is what the defendant did do, and legal guilt which is what the prosecutor can typically prove. An experienced criminal defense attorney will not ask the question, “Did my client do it?” but what’s more important to the attorney is, “Does the state have the proof that my client actually did it?” Whatever the defendant did, they are not deemed to be legally guilty until the prosecutor in the case offers sufficient evidence which persuades the judge or the jury to convict.
Moreover, the defense attorney must not tell any lies to the judge or the jury by stating that the defendant didn’t do something when they know full well the defendant did commit an offense. Also, the attorney can’t admit guilt for their client against the clients wishes. The tactics used by the attorney at the trial and any arguments should focus on the state’s failure to prove all the elements of the crime.
George is charged with shoplifting and he tells his attorney that he did take a watch. George’s attorney then discovers that the store’s videotape downloaded from its surveillance camera is quite fuzzy and really useless as evidence by the prosecution. Also George’s attorney finds out that the security guard at the store was just about to complete a long shift which included overtime and had been under the influence of alcohol. George’s attorney can then use this information in an argument for George’s acquittal. Before the start of the trial, George’s attorney can tell the D.A. that the case is too weak to get a prosecution.
At trial, George’s attorney could argue in the presence of a judge or jury to acquit George. It doesn’t matter what George has done, he is not guilty in the legal sense until the prosecutor is able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. However, George’s attorney may not ethically say when arguing that George “didn’t do it,” but just that the D.A. didn’t have the evidence to prove that Sam typically did do it. This is often used by criminal defense attorneys when defending a client.
An attorney’s opinion
Any defense attorney is ethically bound to enthusiastically represent every client they take on. This includes clients who will be found guilty and those they believe that the facts available prove they are innocent. A dedicated defense is essential to protect anyone who is innocent and to be certain that the judge and citizens (the jury), but not the police, have the power to decide if someone is guilty of a crime.
Overall, the defense attorney is typically never absolutely sure if a defendant is guilty of the crime that they have been charged with. Take the following situations:
- Even if the defendant admits to doing a crime they may be deliberately lying because they want to be held responsible for the crime because they are covering up for someone else who did commit the crime in question.
- Also, the defendant may be guilty of committing a lesser crime than the one the district attorney is prosecuting.
- A defendant might have committed the crime in question, but might have a viable defense that would most likely exonerate them.
Because of the above reasons a defense attorney often not ask a client if they have committed the crime. In many cases, the attorney will use the facts provided to mount the best possible defense but leaves the judge or jury to decide on the question of guilt. In reality, the defense attorney isn’t really concerned if the defendant committed the crime or not but has been given the job to defend the person and tehy will do it to the best of their ability.
If you need help from an attorney to fight any kind of criminal charge against you, contact the Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan in Anchorage at 907-276-8008.