Interviewer: What if someone seems guilty or believes that they’re guilty? Should they throw themselves at the mercy of the court or fight the charges?
Paul Tafelski: Many people have these feelings of guilt following an arrest or being charged and their first instinct is to try and do that and throw themselves on the mercy of the court. My opinion is that’s the wrong thing to do. You can still handle yourself in a respectable and dignified way and yet still try and manage your case and the consequences to the best of your ability. I’ve seen a lot of situations where people did that and threw themselves on the mercy of the court and then they were outraged when the court kicked them in the butt and gave them a very harsh sentence.
At that point, it was too late to do anything about it. These are important times in someone’s life and they can be lifelong consequences to these cases and to try to rush through something just because you feel bad or feel guilty is often what leads people to regret their decision five years, ten years down the road. My opinion is definitely don’t do that. Take your time and make sure you work to get the best possible outcome.
If you have not been charged with a crime but someone is investigating you, don’t do anything to help them build their case against you. Don’t make any statements and don’t be interviewed. If you need help, call us and we’ll try to help you get through the situation. If you have been charged, don’t panic. Just realize this is a step by step process and the outcome is far from determined. With hard work and good planning and good thinking you can almost always make the situation better then you think it is and get an outcome that will allow you to continue on with your life and maybe beat the case all together.
Deciding to Plead Guilty or Not Guilty in a Criminal Case
Interviewer: Would you say that a lot of people are unaware that there is a system for them to follow and it may be sometimes more beneficial for them to plead not guilty even if they feel like they are guilty?
Paul Tafelski: Yes, a lot of people feel like they’re lying to the court by saying not guilty and that’s not the case. The court really doesn’t even want you to plead guilty for example at arraignment. They would rather that you wait until the pretrial which is the next step of the case in order to talk to a prosecutor, have the chance to talk to a lawyer, make your own informed decisions. Nobody in the court system holds it against you for pleading not guilty.
You’ll see that people sometimes think that but I have not seen that be accurate at all. I have not seen them get any benefit out of doing that.
Explaining Indictment and the Grand Jury Process in Charging People with Crimes
Interviewer: What does it mean to be indicted? What does that word mean?
Paul Tafelski: It’s basically just another word, another way of saying that you have been charged. Indicted is something that applies more to federal cases where a grand jury decides to approve charges against someone. In the state court system which is where 90% of the cases are, you’re not really indicted, a warrant is issued against you with bringing charges against you.