If I’m Innocent, Why Do I Need an Attorney?

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For almost all people, being accused of a criminal offense is a confusing, frightening, anxiety-inducing experience. For those who are actually innocent of the crime, those feelings are intensified.

Often, a person accused of a crime he or she did not commit wants to believe in our legal system—believe that there could not possibly be a verdict of guilty for a crime someone else committed. For this reason, innocent people often don’t hire an attorney early on in the process. They simply believe the police and the prosecutor will figure it out, and the charges will be dropped.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. A report from the University of Michigan Law School reports that in 2015, 149 people in the United States who had been convicted of a crime were declared innocent—a record number. Many of these innocent people had already served lengthy prison sentences. In fact, the average person cleared of a crime in 2015 had already served 15 years in prison, for a crime committed by another person. Their lives were changed forever, and it is likely none of those people were able to return to the life they once had, or the person they once were. Further statistics for 2015 wrongful convictions include the following:

In half of the 149 cases, investigators concluded that not only were those convicted actually innocent of the crime—there was no crime committed. One of the primary reasons for these convictions were fires, in which a person or persons died as a result. The fires were ruled arson, thus murder charges were filed. Later, it was found that the fires were tragic, to be sure, but no criminal act was responsible.

Twenty-seven of the exonerated people were found to have confessed to a crime they were not responsible for. While many simply don’t understand why a person would confess to something they didn’t do, it is important to note that many of these people were mentally ill, juveniles, intellectually disabled, or they had been threatened with an even longer prison sentence if they went to trial.

Unfortunately, misconduct, on the part of prosecutors and police officers, was present in three-fourths of the exonerations for homicides.

Perhaps most alarming, five of those who were later exonerated of the crime they had been convicted of were on death row.

Pressure to Plead Guilty

In drug cases in particular, false guilty pleas were often made after the person was pressured by the police, and threatened with a much longer prison sentence if the case went to trial. Even in cases where later testing found an absence of drugs, the guilty plea was not thrown out. Although most police officers are honest—sometimes they are not. Despite the “innocent until proven guilty” premise of our legal system, this certainly does not negate the need for an attorney, no matter how innocent the accused.

When the Truth Does Not Prevail

First of all, don’t assume that because you are innocent it can’t hurt—and might even help—for you to talk to the police. If the police want to talk to you, it is because they are already fairly sure you’ve committed a crime. It is very easy to say something to the police which could be misinterpreted, or taken out of context, so take your rights seriously and refuse to talk until you have spoken to an attorney.

While we all want to believe the truth will prevail, there are simply too many times when a totally innocent party can have a difficult time explaining their innocence. While many people feel asking for an attorney makes them look guilty, remember this—calling an attorney is not an admission of guilt. Calling an attorney is a smart move if you want to ensure your rights and your future are fully protected.

 Why You Need Your Attorney on the Case as Soon as Possible

In particular, pretrial communication is an excellent reason to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. In certain cases, your attorney may be able to intervene, even before formal charges are filed against you, while other times, you may have to wait until the charges are filed. At that point your attorney can investigate, gather evidence, take witness statements, and show the prosecutor there is no way you could have committed the crime. In the end, the American justice system is made up of human beings, and human beings can make mistakes, or even deliberately “railroad” a person accused of a crime. Don’t let yourself be one of the wrongfully accused, spending years of your life in prison for a crime you did not commit—call an attorney immediately.

Contact Our Jackson Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you have been charged with a crime or an attempted crime in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Meridian, or anywhere in the State of Mississippi, the best thing you can do is to contact an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney who will protect your rights to a fair trial and safeguard your future.

At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and we work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at 1-601-948-1600 or 1-877-231-1600.

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Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.


Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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