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Effective Assistance of Counsel and Guilty Pleas — Seven Rules to Follow
By Vida B. Johnson
No criminal defense lawyer went to law school to become a cog in the criminal justice machine. Unfortunately, with an absolutely astonishingly high number of criminal cases being resolved by guilty plea, that is what many defense lawyers have become. Almost 95 percent of state convictions and 97 percent of federal convictions are the result of guilty pleas.1 As the U.S. Supreme Court recently stated, the criminal justice system is “a system of pleas, not a system of trials.”2 Although guilty pleas are a huge portion of the work that most defense lawyers do, the plea process is rarely the subject of training and is often a neglected area of defense practice.
Most lawyers understand that pleading a client out is an easy and quick way to dispose of a case. There is no question that it is more efficient to dispose of a case via a guilty plea than to take a case to trial. But to effectively represent a client during the plea negotiation process also requires more time, effort, a
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