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Importance of seeking a second legal opinion.

Posted by attorney Raymond Wigell

The Importance of Seeking a Second Opinion in Your Criminal Case

Seeking a second opinion when it comes to a medical diagnosis is fairly common. It does not necessarily mean you do not trust the doctor making the initial diagnosis; rather, it is simply prudent to investigate further and learn more about how other medical professionals might choose to handle your ailment. After all, why submit to a biopsy when a change in diet is almost sure to improve your condition? You want to be sure that you are aware of the different possible approaches and options for treatment.

So why do people rarely seem to apply this kind of critical thinking to seeking legal advice? Many clients have called me for a second (or third) opinion first ask, "Can I terminate my current attorney?' The answer is clearly, yes. A client can terminate his/her current lawyer at any time. No reason or justification need be given. The right to an attorney of your choice is constitutionally based.

Seeking a second opinion is incredibly important. Many people wrongly presume that if they hear from one lawyer that their case is weak, or their best outcome would still likely include jail time, or that a case is “unwinnable," then every other lawyer that takes a look at the facts will reach the same conclusion.

This is not true.If this is the first and only lawyer you consult, you may think that this is your best option: a conviction on your record that will likely negatively affect your future prospects, especially in terms of employment and earning power. If you stop right there, that is the best you’ll be able to do.

Lawyers, after all, are trained to examine a set of facts with an eye on the law with an understanding of the facts and circumstances. Applicable sentencing parameters are part of the analysis. Lawyers each have a different set of arrows in their quivers, so to speak. A particular lawyer may focus on negotiation and not carefully consider trial options. some lawyers seldom take a case to trial and recommend that the client plead guilty with an eye toward a favorable sentence. If this is the first lawyer you visit, he may give you the impression that you need to plead guilty and take a conviction, so that he can secure favorable terms for sentencing. Be aware that this may not be the best approach.

“Just plead guilty to the charge," he or she may say. “Based on these facts, I’m confident I can get you the minimum time in prison." This is NOT what good lawyers tell their clients. Lawyers that are advocates for their clients rights take the time and effort to analyze the complete case environment before recommending an approach. Quick decision are often flawed and short sighted.

And that is why it is crucial to seek another opinion and another attorney.

When you seek a second opinion, you may very well get a better response than what you were initially told. The first attorney you saw recognized his or her own strength in plea negotiation and kept his eye on that prize, confident that he could either get probation or work out a favorable deal with the State otherwise. The second attorney you see may very well have a different approach in his own legal practice.

Perhaps the second experienced criminal defense attorney you see for a consultation will be a strong trial attorney. This attorney may be the sort who deliberates over the facts you set before him and immediately analyzes your options. He might ask a series of questions that will also help you better figure out your options and make decisions about the course of your life.

Are the charges something this attorney has handled many times before? If so, he might have some ideas about how to handle it.Experience certainly matters a lot and plays a significant role in the analysis of legal issues and litigation strategies. Does the attorney think there are grounds to quash the arrest or the searchwarrant? If so, whatever contraband or illegal activity was yielded by the arrest or the search warrant would be inadmissible and the charges will be dropped. Does this attorney think that the case is triable? If so, he may want to pursue that and either put on a bench trial in front of a judge or a jury trial.

But no matter how triable your case is, he should have an eye on a possible conviction and sentencing. In this case, he might say that even though your chances at trial are good, in the event of a loss, he also thinks there are plenty of opportunities for mitigation. If there are many mitigating factors, this might result in probation instead of jail time or a prison sentence, or it might mean a lower sentence.

As you can see, there is a potential for a big difference in the handling of your criminal case. This is not to say that a second opinion will always yield a better result or better options for you. It is entirely possible, of course, that another attorney may tell you something very similar to what the first attorney said, or may give you an even worse forecast. If that is the case, you can always return to the first attorney, or you can seek yet another opinion. Remember, many attorneys offer free consultations, so you lose nothing but an hour of your time and you gain a better perspective when it comes to your legal issues.

The reason that seeking a second opinion is so crucial to the handling of your criminal investigation or criminal case is because attorneys vary in their experience levels and their litigation tactics, and you deserve to have options before you make a decision that has such a significant impact on your life, your future, and possibly your freedom.

Do not cheat yourself out of your options and do not let yourself get painted into a corner based on one person’s legal opinion and analysis. Save the first attorney’s business card, find and consult with a second attorney, and weigh your options.

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