How Not Being Truthful with Your Lawyer Will Hurt Your Defense Strategy
It is important to never lie to your attorney….period.
I think I might have written a blog on this topic a few years ago, but it’s worth talking about again. I had lunch earlier today with a friend who is also a criminal defense lawyer. He was telling me about a case that he had where his client basically screwed himself because he never told his lawyer the truth. It is a story that is all too familiar to me and to my colleagues, and it is something that really should never happen.
My friend told me how his client was accused of having drugs, and being involved in an organization that was making the drugs and getting them ready for the streets. He spent months and months telling his lawyer one story, and swearing it was true. Based on what the client was telling him, the lawyer did his investigation, planned his defense, had everything ready to go, only to be hit with a bombshell months later. While his client was telling him that he was never in the house they were accusing him of being in, it turns out that there were hours and hours of video.
After being confronted with the video, the client finally admitted to the lawyer that he had not been telling him the truth. This is horrible for a bunch of reasons, but number one, is that had the attorney had all of the truthful information from the beginning, the defense would have been much different. But because he lied, certain things happened during the course of the case that made the outcome much worse for him.
Your Attorneys Role
You have to remember that your attorney is on your side. I can’t speak for all other attorneys, but I never judge my clients. I would like to say I have seen it all, but that’s not the case, because I see new things all the time. But the point is, I don’t care if you did something bad or if you made a mistake. My concern is you, my client, and what we can do to get this behind you with the best interests of your future in mind.
Whether you come to me with a tiny misdemeanor case, or a very serious felony, I am going to do everything in my power to help you. But at a certain point you have to trust your lawyer and try to help yourself. Sometimes when you lie, you just did a hole that’s deeper and deeper and it becomes almost impossible to climb out. So bottom line, be truthful with your lawyer, it will help you in the long run.
Good Lawyers Come in all Shapes and Sizes, Bad Lawyers do too
When looking for a criminal attorney it is very important to do your research, ask the appropriate questions, and be comfortable with the attorney who is representing you.
I became a lawyer when I was 25 years old, and I have been blessed to have enough work to have been in the courtroom almost every work day since I started practicing. Now, as a lawyer in my 30’s, I still sometimes get the “looks” and the questions asking if I am even old enough to be a lawyer. I have heard multiple times that “older is better”, “older equals more experience”, etc…and while it pertains to some attorneys, that could not be further than the truth.
There are many outstanding attorneys who have over 20 years of experience. Attorneys that I would be willing to place my life in their hands if I ever had any legal trouble. But there are also attorneys that have been licensed many years that I would NOT pay $1 to if they were the only attorney available.
On the flip side, there are many young attorneys who are wonderful. Who fight day in and day out, who surround themselves with good mentors, who I would trust if I was a client. And then of course, there are young attorneys who are just starting and simply don’t have a clue what is going on.
It’s tough when you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know who to hire. The best bet is to ask a bunch of question to perspective attorneys, and go with someone who you will feel comfortable with.
Even as a somewhat young attorney, I am always honest about what my strategy would be, my experience on a particular type of case, etc. I have hired co-counsels in past to help me on difficult cases, even if it means some of the money isn’t coming my way. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about me, it’s about the person whose life is on the line.
Recently I was fired on a case where my client was facing a range of punishment of 25 years to life in prison. The facts were not great, I did my research, worked the case, and was finally given an offer well under the minimum of 25 years. The client fired me on good terms, stating that he appreciated everything I have done, but that, “he needed an old lawyer on his case, someone with more experience.”
His family told me the same thing and later I saw the name of the attorney who took the case over. I had never heard of him so I looked him up and I saw that he was an older gentleman in his late 50s, but I also noticed that he went to law school and graduated in 2011. So he has only been an attorney for 2 years, with much less experience than I have.
Now this attorney might be one of the wonderful recent graduates who surrounds himself with the right mentors, and does an excellent job for his clients….or he might be horrible. Of course I don’t know for sure, but I am assuming that this client hired him simply because of his age, because that is what he told me. But the point is, you should not judge a book by its cover. Do your research, ask your questions, and make sure you are properly represented.
Finding the right Criminal Lawyer in Houston is important to anyone with a pending case. I am a believer that no one attorney is right for every defendant. I think it is important to visit with at least a few attorneys and go with the person who you feel most comfortable with.
Every Houston Criminal Defense Attorney is different. Some are young, some are old, some are fit, and some not so much. But none of this matters as much as the gut feeling you get while talking to them. Unfortunately some people think 30 years of experience means someone is a better lawyer than 10 years of experience. The truth is, it is hard to know who is a good lawyer and who isn’t.
There are lawyers in Houston who haven’t even thought about taking a case to trial in 20 years and there are those who want to take every case to trial. Honestly, both types can be dangerous. You need to talk to a variety of lawyers, get a variety of opinions, and go with the person you feel is the most sincere in wanting to truly help you.
I know young attorneys who are awesome and some who are just starting. I know old attorneys who are awesome, and some who are burned out. A lawyer’s “stats” (40 years experience!) don’t necessarily tell you everything you need to know.
So bottom line, make sure you are diligent in your research, and make sure you meet with every lawyer you are interested in in person! If you can’t reach a lawyer when you are trying to hire them, how likely are you to be able to reach them when they are officially representing you? If you are arrested, it is definitely a stressful time, but I guarantee you that there is a Criminal Lawyer in Houston that is right for you!
Finding a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney is not hard. Chances are, if you need one, you are going to be contacted by many. What is tough is finding a Criminal Lawyer in Houston that you can trust. I have been a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney since the first day I was licensed in the State of Texas. In my blog I hope to have an avenue to share my thoughts, and hopefully give advice to those needing the assistance of a good criminal lawyer in Houston.
The first thing I advise anyone who asks me about hiring an attorney is to make sure you personally meet with every attorney that you are interested in hiring. All too often (my law firm being no exception), individuals just hire an attorney over the phone. I just think it makes more sense to go in and have a face to face consultation. Most consultations are free, so there is little excuse for not making time for such an important decision. There are three main reasons I believe consultations are better in person:
- You have the opportunity to see the person who is going to represent you. The last thing you want is to walk into court not knowing who the heck your lawyer is. Meeting an attorney in person prevents the awkward moment in court where your lawyer has to say your name because he has no clue what you look like. You also might not want to hire an attorney if he doesn’t present himself professionally. Meeting him before will give you an idea of how the person carries himself from one day to the next.
- You get to see the environment where your attorney works daily. A lawyer’s office can tell you a lot about how he is going to handle your case. Is his office a mess? Are there piles of trash in the corner? Does he even have a physical office? Does he seem organized? These are all things that are impossible to determine over the phone.
- Your lawyer can get a better feel for you, and for your case, in person. Sometimes it’s about what’s best for the lawyer too. It is hard to read people over the phone. Many times an individual’s physical traits or demeanor can help an attorney decide what the defense of a case is. It’s always best for your lawyer to know as much about you as possible prior to getting to court.
Overall it is a win/win for a client/attorney when the consultation is in person. I know it’s tough to miss days from work, but many attorneys (myself included) are available on weekends and evenings to meet. Picking a Criminal Lawyer in Houston is an extremely important decision, and you owe it to yourself (and your record!) to inform yourself to the best of your abilities prior to signing an attorney/client contract. If you are facing a criminal charge and have any questions or would like to set up a free consultation , please feel free to contact me at 713-222-2828.
My name is Eric J. Benavides, and I am a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney. I am a founding partner of Benavides & Serrano, PLLC. I decided to start a blog mostly to give myself an avenue to talk about current events, the law, and things that interest me in general. I don’t expect many individuals who are searching for a criminal lawyer in Houston to read this blog, but hey, maybe you will! This is just a brief introduction of why I do what I do…
My mother has a framed drawing in her room that I did when I was 4 years old. It says “I want to be a Lawyer”, and has a stick figure sitting at a poorly drawn desk. You see, being a lawyer is the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I can’t exactly tell you why I always wanted to be a lawyer, but I think it stems from wanting to help people. I think that is a common trait of the good lawyers in our business. It’s not about the money, because if it was, I sure wouldn’t be a Houston criminal defense attorney. It’s about the people, and the lives you can change.
Fresh out of law school I started working at a respectable criminal defense firm in downtown Houston. I knew I wanted to help people, but I’ll never forget the feeling of walking out of court with my first dismissal. My client gave me a hug and told me I saved her job. And I’ll definitely never forget the first time I heard “Not Guilty” after arguing to the best of my ability for a wrongly accused client. It’s a rush, and a sense of accomplishment. It makes you feel like you are making a difference in the world, even if it only matters to one person (your client!).
The feeling of helping others is what keeps me going every day. Even though not everyone gets their case dismissed, it’s always the goal to get them the best possible outcome. And I promised myself long ago that I would never allow a client to plead guilty unless I truly believed the deal he was getting was fair.
If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing a criminal lawyer in Houston feel free to contact me at 713-222-2828. I can’t promise you an outcome, but I promise you that I will always tell the truth, and that I will work to the best of my capabilities.