Selecting a Criminal Attorney, When Winning is Your Only Option, Revisited

Selecting a Criminal Attorney, When Winning is Your Only Option, Revisited

Selecting a Criminal Attorney

Most people who are indicted for allegedly committing a federal white collar crime believe that winning their jury trial is the only option that will restore their life back to where it was before their legal problems began. To these individuals, winning is everything.

These defendants are often citizens that have never had any prior problems with the law. They are business people and professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and architects.  Many do not know a federal criminal defense lawyer and if they do know one, they have never seen the lawyer’s skills during an actual federal jury trial.

The selection of a winning federal criminal defense lawyer is an important step.

The selection of a winning federal criminal defense lawyer is one of the most important steps that a white collar crime defendant can take to further his goal of being vindicated by a jury following trial.  However, selecting the proper trial attorney for your case may not be a simple task. There are approximately 100,000 active members of the Florida Bar.  Only a fraction of these lawyers handle federal criminal cases for the defense.  More alarming is the fact that only a small percentage of these federal criminal defense lawyers have successfully gone through a federal criminal jury trial and won a verdict of NOT GUILTY on all counts for the defendant.

The fact is that there are more and more lawyers admitted to practice law each year. However, there are fewer and fewer lawyers who will actually represent a defendant in a federal criminal case through the jury trial.  During the past 10 years a trend has developed in which the government has indicted fewer and fewer cases each year. For example, United States District Courts report the following number of indictments returned:

Year20122013201420152016
Indictments93,44089,68180,03979,28576,135

This represents a reduction in indictments of over 17% during this 5 year period of time.  However, as the number of cases has gone down, the number of lawyers has gone up.  As a result, some criminal defense lawyers have begun to quote flat fees to clients that are extremely low and cannot realistically cover the cost associated with preparing for and actually trying a federal jury trial. In many instances, these lawyers recommend to their clients that they plead guilty. In this way these lawyers avoid going to trial.  This practice is becoming more and more common.

The Government has the advantage.

The Government has the advantage of being able to select the cases in which it will seek an indictment. The Government lawyers and agents are careful to select cases that they believe that they have sufficient evidence to win. This means that the government lawyers and agents select cases that they believe that the Defendant has little or no chance to win. As a result, the Government reports that it obtains convictions in approximately 90% of the cases indicted. Of course, this statistic includes all of the cases that were resolved by Defendants who pled guilty as part of a plea agreement.

Only 2.5% of the federal criminal cases were resolved by jury trial.

During the one year period ending on September 30, 2016, the total number of federal criminal jury trials that took place was 1,889. During this same period of time approximately 76,135 indictments were filed. This data reflects that only 2.5% of the federal criminal cases were resolved by jury trial.  Further, less than 1% of all active lawyers have successfully represented a Defendant, during the past 10 years, in a federal white collar case in which the jury rendered a verdict of NOT GUILTY as to all counts.   The data and statistics suggests that even lawyers who concentrate their law practices to federal criminal defense are seldom representing their clients in jury trials.

YearIndictmentsJury TrialsPercentage
201676,1351,8892,5%

It is beyond dispute that each criminal case is unique and the evidence and facts will greatly influence the outcome.  Further, past trial results do not guarantee future success.  However, a client has the right to know if the lawyer, he is considering to retain, pleads almost all of his clients guilty or has never won a federal criminal jury trial for the defense.

There is no substitute for doing your homework.

When a person has been indicted and determines that winning is the only option, the selection of a winning federal criminal trial lawyer is crucial. As a client, you have the absolute right to inquire from any lawyer you are considering hiring, the names and case numbers of his last ten federal jury trials for the defense.  There is no substitute for doing your homework.

Well meaning friends and acquaintances will tell you that they know a lawyer and he is the “best.”  However, what they really mean is that this lawyer is the best one that they know. The lawyer may be the only one that they know. Chances are that they may have never seen the lawyer in court during an actual jury trial.  Relying on recommendations of this type can lead to disappointment.  

In summary, When Winning is Your Only Option, the first task should be to hire a lawyer that has won multiple federal jury trials for the defense.   

 

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