We are often contacted by people who are looking for a “cheap lawyer.” I'm always amazed by this request. Why do people want a cheap lawyer handling their criminal case which has the potential to change their lives? A competent lawyer will provide insight and wisdom easily overlooked by people dealing with the criminal justice system for the first time. For example, people tend to think that one misdemeanor or petty conviction is no big deal. What they don't realize is there are life-changing consequences to having a criminal record in Denver, Adams, or Jefferson County. Let's look a case I read about just this morning in order to illustrate why paying for an experienced criminal defense attorney is important.
Stealing Socks = Possible Lifetime Prison Sentence
In 1995, a man named Curtis was waiting for his girlfriend while she got her hair cut. The 33-year-old grew impatient, so he decided to hang out at the mall for the remainder of her appointment. While browsing a department store, he spotted a pair of socks. Something came over him, and he grabbed them and stuck them in a shopping bag. Unbeknownst to him, two security guards saw and he was apprehended. They were overzealous, so they decided to call the police instead of simply making him pay the $2.50 for the socks. Curtis was charged with Theft, and entered the court system. A new “tough on crime” law had gone into effect, so he was sentenced to prison for 25 years to life. This seems ridiculous – how can the theft of a boring pair of socks result in possible life in prison? Curtis was sentenced harshly as a habitual offender because he had two prior convictions. He had been abandoned by his parents, and spent a lot of time on the streets. He did prison time for serving as a lookout for a few robberies. Those two Curtis had two prior convictions and was treated as an habitual offender.convictions in his past came back to haunt him. Curtis is still in prison, waiting for the 25 year mark when his case goes before the parole board. He works four to five hours a day in the cafeteria in prison to pay back the $2,500 court ordered restitution. Through it all, Curtis has managed to retain a sense of humor – he laughs and says he wishes he had waited patiently for his girlfriend so many years ago.
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Harsh Sentencing and Sentencing Mistakes
Mistakes are made in Colorado prisons
People don't tend to think about whether or not judges are fair until they are charged with a crime in Douglas, Arapahoe, or El Paso County. As leading criminal defense attorney law firm, we are faced daily with unfair sentences, unjust convictions, and innocent people going to jail. While Colorado doesn't have the “Three Strikes” law (like the state Curtis is from), they do have laws for harsher sentences for habitual offenders. In addition to harsh laws for repeat offenders, courts make mistakes just like everyone else. Last year, a Department of Corrections review revealed that 1,211 prisoners have possible errors in their sentencing documents. That number is 53% of the sentences they reviewed. Colorado courts make errors – those errors relate to you when you are convicted of a crime.
The Best Lawyer isn't Always the Cheapest
Cheap lawyers are “cheap” in more than one way
A misdemeanor conviction might not seem like much, but when a few more mistakes are made later in life, those “small” convictions can come back to haunt you. If judges with decades of experience can make mistakes, you're not going to catch the fact you've been overcharged. This is why you need an informed criminal defense lawyer by your side, ensuring that you get the best possible outcome in your case. Don't put your life into the hands of the cheapest lawyer you can find. They are “cheap” in more than one way. Find the best lawyer for your situation. Look for an attorney who:
- Practices 100% Criminal Defense: You don't want to hire someone who only dabbles in criminal law. Criminal cases are complex and stressful – you need a lawyer who is capable of handling the intricacies and pressure in your case.
- You Get Along With: You're going to be working closely with your criminal defense attorney for many months. You don't want to work with someone who you have a hard time communicating with. Find an attorney who you feel comfortable with.
- Handles Your Case Personally: Many criminal defense attorneys make big promises, then hand off important facets of your case to paralegals. This is how they keep their prices so low. Work with a lawyer who takes the time to answer your calls and meet with you.
- Is Honest about Your Situation: Don't hire an attorney who makes promises without reading the police report in your case. A trustworthy lawyer will be honest about your future in the criminal justice system and won't make unjustified promises.
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If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Colorado, be smart, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the O'Malley Law Office at 303-830-0880. Together, we will protect your future.Request a Free Consultation