Criminal Law/Criminal Confession
Dear Mr. Hauck,
I have a question about criminal offenses that I was hoping you could give me your insight on - I'd very much appreciate it.
Let's assume that someone is arrested for a crime, and the suspect knows that he/she is guilty. Let's say the minimum prison time is 5 yrs and the maximum is 20 yrs, and it's the person's first offense.
Let's say that the police have some evidence of a crime (probably enough to convict) and they begin to talk to the suspect. But they don't have all the evidence. Uncovering new evidence would result in additional counts against the suspect, resulting in more jail time. Let's assume the suspect just wants to go to jail, do his/her time, and get out, and try to move on with his/her life. He/she wants everything out in the open and to start over again, with no risk of more charges later on.
A defense attorney would normally advise the suspect not to say anything to the police and remain silent, putting the suspect in a better position when the case goes to trial. However, if the suspect doesn't say anything and then goes to jail for 7 yrs (hypothetically), and then this new evidence is uncovered later on, and the new evidence causes the suspect to get more charges with harsher sentencing (because it's a second offense).
What do you think would put the suspect in a better position legally (long term)? Does the prosecution normally plea bargain because they're afraid to go into a lengthy trial (because the suspect doesn't talk and they don't have great evidence)? Should the suspect just confess to the police initially about all the evidence to get it all out of the way? Would confessing give the defendant a worse deal if a plea bargain were reached?
What if he/she doesn't confess to the police initially? Can he/she still confess to the judge and have those additional counts investigated as a first time offense? What if the suspect confesses, the police don't find the additional evidence the defendant mentioned, and the defendant goes to jail, but while in jail someone turns the additional evidence over to the police. If the defendant initially tells the police and confesses and describes the evidence before going to jail, but the police don't find the evidence, and the evidence is later turned over to the police and new charges are filed, does this count as a second offense or first offense?
I hope my question makes sense. Thank you for your advise and expertise.
This could go two ways. If the suspect truly wants to put everything behind him and start fresh then I would recommend hiring a defense attorney and have the attorney work out a plea deal. The DA and police like to close cases as it makes it look like they are doing their job and that their communities are safer as a result of each criminal disposition. This could work out for the suspect but the defense attorney retained should have experience in this matter. However if the suspect does not trust the system entirely, and rightfully so, then he should make the State meet it's burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt. Again, I would caution that a defense attorney is retained for this to protect the rights of the suspect. Confessing to the judge at trial or a hearing would not be good. I know it is not easy, but in jail or prison the suspect should resist the urge to talk or confess to other inmates. If more evidence is found after or during the trial phase it would likely be additional offense(s). I hope I answered your questions. As with any important issue please consult the services of a qualified attorney to help you.