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Are you represented by a public defender, a
court-appointed attorney, or privately retained counsel?
Has your public defender, court-appointed attorney,
or private attorney presented you with a plea offer and
you are not sure whether you should accept it?
Do you feel like you need an unbiased second opinion?
The Law Office of David Jameson Kephart, PLLC. offers second opinion case evaluations for a low, nominal fee so that you, your family, and your friends can feel comfortable that entering a plea agreement or proceeding to trial is in your best interest.
Why a second opinion?
If you or a family member had a serious illness, and the medical treatment could affect the rest of your life, wouldn’t you get a second opinion? Although not a life and death situation, entering into a plea agreement is a life altering event and usually one of the biggest decisions in a person’s life. In 2006, professors at the University of Arizona compiled a report of “collateral consequences” associated with the effects of a criminal conviction in Arizona and the report was over 129 page! Needless to say, the consequences of entering into a plea agreement, either for a felony or a misdemeanor, will carry with it many far ranging consequences.
A plea agreement will result in the person having a criminal conviction on their record. In many cases, the criminal conviction may result in the person going to prison or serving jail time. The person may also be placed on probation which may carry with it even more consequences, such as, random drug tests, random searches of the person and their home, curfew, weekly or monthly reporting, monthly probation fees of over $65, etc., etc.
Additionally, a criminal conviction could result in the person losing their job, their professional license (teachers, nurses, etc.), and it can even result in a person losing their home. If the person is lucky and they do not lose their job, a criminal conviction will make it very difficult for them to change employers or advance in their current job. If the person is unemployed, a criminal conviction will generally be a barrier to entry into the work force. The list of consequences is too long to list here, but needless to say, a criminal conviction is a life altering event.
Conversely, rejecting a plea and proceeding to trial can also have grave consequences. In a vast majority of cases, proceeding to trial and then losing at trial will result in a much harsher sentence than that of a plea agreement. If you proceed to trial, you need to know exactly what you are facing if you lose and you need to fully understand the consequences of that decision. If there is anything practicing law has taught me, it is that juries are absolutely unpredictable. Any trial attorney can attest that they have lost trials they should have won, and won trials they should have lost. The wild card in the whole system is the jury.
My public defender, court-appointed attorney, or private attorney really doesn’t care about me or my case and just wants me to plead guilty
Maricopa County, by comparison, has one of the best public defense systems in the country. Criminal defendants are represented by either the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office, the Maricopa County Office of the Legal Advocate, the Maricopa County Office of the Legal Defender, or the Maricopa County Office of Public Defense Services. Each of these agencies employee skilled lawyers who are highly trained and trusted to effectively represent defendants.
The sad reality is that the public defender system, even here in Maricopa County, is underfunded to the point that attorneys are forced to take on huge case loads. The attorneys, most of which have dedicated their careers to public defense service, are put into tough positions simply by the caseload and the demands placed on them. It’s not that they do not care about their clients or their client’s cases, it’s just the reality that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done. Because of this, the general perception felt by many defendants is that their public defender or court-appointed attorney is too overworked and the attorney is simply pushing the defendant to enter into a plea agreement just to get rid of the case.
This perception can create a lack of trust between the defendant and the attorney. In many cases, however, a plea agreement may be in the best interest of the defendant, but because of this perception felt by the defendant, they do not trust the advice of their attorney. A second opinion case evaluation can offer the defendant an unbiased evaluation of their case, and can reassure the defendant that either entering or rejecting a plea offer is in the defendant’s best interest.
I don’t get along with my public defender, court-appointed attorney, or private attorney
In some circumstances, defendants and their public defender, court-appointed attorney, or even their private attorney simply do not get along. This may be a result of a personality conflict, or communication issues, or even a trust issue as discussed above. Unfortunately, the case law is clear that although a criminal defendant is entitled to a court-appointed attorney, they are not entitled to the attorney of their choice (unless they can pay for it). What this means is that even though a defendant and a public defender or court-appointed attorney do not get along, they are generally stuck with each other.
As you can imagine, it is incredibly difficult for a defendant to trust the advice of an attorney that he or she does not get along with. A second opinion case evaluation can offer the defendant an unbiased evaluation of their case, and can reassure the defendant that either entering or rejecting a plea offer is in the defendant’s best interest.
I have a private attorney, why do I need a second opinion?
As mentioned above, entering into a plea agreement or proceeding to trial is a huge decision. This decision can often be stressful for a defendant and can lead to a break down in the attorney-client relationship. Additionally, an attorney-client fee agreement generally calls for an attorney to make more money if the case proceeds to trial, which means a privately retained attorney may have a financial interest in the case proceeding to trial. That’s not to say that a privately retained attorney will encourage a client to proceed to trial when it is not in the client’s best interest, but it’s simply a good idea to get a second opinion.
As mentioned above, entering a plea or proceeding to trial is a decision not to be made lightly. It takes time as well as careful consideration and deliberation to come to the ultimate decision of whether to plea guilty or to proceed to trial.
Is this really an unbiased second opinion or is this just a sales pitch?
The Law Office of David Jameson Kephart, PLLC, offers second opinion case evaluations for a low, nominal fee so that you, your family, and your loved ones can feel comfortable that entering a plea agreement or proceeding to trial is in your best interest. The only way such an unbiased evaluation can be conducted is if I have no vested interest, financial or otherwise, in the decision to plea or proceed to trial. This means that if you retain attorney David Kephart’s services to conduct a second opinion evaluation, then you cannot retain him to handle your case regardless of whether you enter a plea or you decide to proceed to trial.