The Costly Consequences of Poor Representation
If you’re being investigated or have been charged with a crime in or around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, your future is at stake. If convicted, you’ll carry a criminal record with you for a minimum of 10 years, potentially ruining your chances at landing great job opportunities and making it difficult for you in many other pursuits in life, including professional licensing.
With arraignment and trial looming, you’ll be offered the services of a public defender for free, and the temptation may be to go that route. After all, hiring a private attorney is expensive. But remember, if you’re convicted, your life will likely never be the same, even if you ate able to avoid jail time.
No matter how well-intentioned or professional a public defender may be, that person is usually swamped with a heavy caseload and will be hard-pressed to devote sufficient time to your case to develop a strong defense. They will often opt for the first available plea bargain, even if it results in a criminal record for you.
You need to retain the best criminal defense attorney you can find. At Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., I love representing clients in the courtroom. It’s my passion. I’m not there to work out the quickest plea bargain. I’m here to help you seek the best available outcome, no matter how long the odds may seem.
My firm serves clients across Pittsburgh, Fox Chapel, Ross Township, Aspinwall, Shaler Township, and Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. Call me for a free telephone consultation. After that, we can work out an affordable payment plan to relieve you of financial worries, so we can get started immediately.
Public Defenders vs. Private Attorneys
I’ve already mentioned the caseloads thrust upon public defenders. Having so many clients at the same time makes it nearly impossible for them to devote the time and resources necessary to handle each individual case thoroughly.
Though this didn’t happen in Pennsylvania, the injustice inflicted on Fate Vincent Winslow in Louisiana should be a warning signal about leaving your fate in the hands of a public defender.
Winslow was a homeless black man when he was arrested for selling $20 of marijuana to an undercover police officer. At the time of his arrest, he had $5 in his pocket, which he said he was going to use to buy food. With prior nonviolent convictions, he was ineligible for public assistance.
When he appeared in court to face the charge, he was represented by a public defender who gave a 30-second opening statement, called no witnesses, and offered no evidence in defense of Winslow. The defender also failed to point out that Winslow was merely acting as a “runner” for a white drug dealer who was never arrested or charged. At one point, Winslow implored the judge to find him a new attorney, but the judge declined.
At the conclusion of his trial, Winslow was sentenced to life in prison. Again, the public defender made no effort to mitigate the sentence, failing to argue that Winslow’s prior convictions were only for nonviolent offenses.
In December 2020, after serving 12 years in prison, Winslow was released, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO), which successfully fought to get him a resentencing hearing.
Obviously, the Winslow injustice is not typical of every case handled by a public defender, but it should give all of us pause. A good defense attorney can pay dividends for the rest of your life.
The Repercussions of a Criminal Record
Matters are better now, but ask Pennsylvania resident Khalia Robinson about the effects of having an entry on your criminal record. In 2006, she was arrested for counterfeiting when all she did was knock over a stack of bootlegged CDs on a sidewalk leading to a fast-food restaurant. As she picked them up to restack them for the seller, a police officer placed her under arrest. She was cleared of all charges a year later, but the charges stayed on her record going forward. She said her criminal record prevented her from obtaining the meaningful employment she sought.
All of that changed in 2019 with the enactment of Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law. Now, charges that don’t result in convictions will be sealed from public view, but convictions will not — for at least 10 years after the conviction.
Qualities to Look for In a Defense Attorney
One of the best attributes a private defense attorney possesses is first-hand knowledge of the local police and court personnel and procedures. You should always seek a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the court system where your case will be heard. Firsthand knowledge and experience can often pay big dividends in getting charges reduced or in negotiating more favorable plea bargains.
Another important attribute is the opportunity to develop a personal connection with your attorney so that the two of you are like partners when it comes to making decisions. Look for compatibility when searching for a defense attorney. Make sure your attorney listens to you and takes into account your concerns and desires.
Your attorney should also be able to explain everything to you in everyday terms so that you don’t get confused by a lot of “legalese.” You don’t want to feel lost or confused about what’s going on. You don’t need any surprises either. “I’ve worked out a plea bargain for you, but you need to sign now” may sound great, but is it the best route and the best outcome you can get?
How My Firm Can Help
I’ve already noted how arguing cases in a courtroom is my passion. On top of that, I pride myself on clear and readily available communications. Your questions and concerns don’t always arise during the regular 9-to-5 business day. I’m available when you need me, and I won’t confuse you with legal terminology. I’ll clearly spell out your options while I fight vigorously for your rights and for the best available outcome to your case.
With my familiarity with local police, prosecutors, and judges, I can start working early on to get your charges reduced or even dismissed. Unlike a public defender, I won’t wait until charges are read in court to seek a plea bargain or other actions.
When you’re facing a criminal charge in or around Pittsburgh, contact me at Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys At Law, PC, immediately. I will listen to your circumstances, investigate, and develop a solid defense strategy going forward from day one.