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If I simply intend to plead guilty, why do I need a lawyer?


DWI Attorney and The Charlotte Observer’s 2013 Best Charlotte Lawyer Award winner Brad Smith of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question: If I simply intend to plead guilty, why do I need a lawyer?

Question: "If I simply intend to plead guilty, why do I need a lawyer?"

Brad Smith:

You need a lawyer because one of the biggest parts of any criminal case is sentencing. Sentencing is not cut and dry cookie cutter. In other words if you go into court and plead guilty, is every single person that pleads guilty in front of the same judge, in the same court room going to get the exact same sentence?

Judges consider things called aggravating factors and mitigating factors when they are considering the sentence for somebody. The North Carolina General Statues have a list of aggravating factors that would aggravate a person’s sentence (hand motion indicating an increase) and if those aggravating factors are presented by a district attorney.

There are a variety of different mitigating factors that would mitigate somebody’s sentence, and the judge just isn’t just going to come up with these mitigating factors on their own, it’s the job of someone who has been charged with a criminal offense, or it’s the job of their counsel to present these mitigating factors to a judge and then to counter and argue against the aggravating factors.

I think regardless of what ultimately you plan on doing with your case, weather you intend to try it or you intend on pleading it, you need able counsel. Because your lawyer knows what the law is, he knows the sort of aggravating factors that may apply in your case but more importantly he knows what sort of mitigating factors he needs to tell a judge in order to mitigate any sort of potential sentence.