If you’ve admitted to some aspect of the crime you’re being accused of, it may feel like an attorney can’t do much to help you, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that it’s wise for most criminal defendants to be represented by an attorney.
This is especially true for those who are charged with a sex offense. And it is true regardless of the amount of evidence the police have to support the charge against you. The stakes are often quite high. Sometimes an attorney can use your confession in your favor because accepting responsibility can be beneficial. From challenging the use of certain evidence at trial to negotiating the best possible outcome for you, there are a number of ways that a knowledgeable defense attorney can help you.
Challenging the Admissibility or Validity of a Confession
We know that individuals sometimes confess to crimes for which they are not responsible. This can occur as a result of the interrogation techniques used by the police or certain characteristics of the accused. Coerced or involuntary confessions cannot be used in a trial, but the police can employ a number of questionable tactics, including lying, that the courts do not consider to be coercive. It is helpful to record the details of your interrogation as soon as possible afterward to help preserve your recollection of the event, as it may be different from what is depicted in the police report; it’s best to record your memories in a letter to your attorney so what you write is protected by the legal privilege for attorney-client communications.
In Washington State, any time the prosecutor seeks to offer a confession at trial, the court is required to hold a pre-trial hearing to determine whether the statement can be used as evidence. An attorney can review all of the records to determine whether there is a viable argument that the confession was coerced or any other grounds upon which to challenge the admissibility of the confession. For example, if you have been arrested, the police must read you your Miranda Rights, which include the right to speak with an attorney. If you tell the police that you would like to speak with an attorney, they are not supposed to continue questioning you. If the police failed to advise you of your right to an attorney or interrogated you after you asked for an attorney, your confession may be inadmissible in court.
If the court ultimately determines that your confession can be used at trial, your defense attorney may be able to present testimony from an expert witness on false confessions and/or ask for a special instruction to the jury on voluntariness to challenge the validity of your confession.
Exploring Treatment Alternatives
In most cases, individuals confess because they are, at least to some extent, responsible for what is being alleged. Although you may feel like you’ve backed yourself into a corner, willingness to take responsibility and begin treatment when appropriate is typically viewed favorably by the prosecutor and judge. For certain sex offenders who admit to their misdeeds and plead guilty, Washington law provides a sentencing alternative known as the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative (SSOSSA), which allows an offender to receive treatment for sexual compulsion and avoid going to prison. Your defense lawyer can help you determine whether you meet the criteria for a SSOSA and whether it’s the right choice for you.
If you are interested in pursuing a SSOSA, it is important to have an experienced attorney to help guide you through the process and advocate on your behalf to win the support of the prosecutor, the victim’s family, and the judge, which is not an easy feat. A knowledgeable and effective lawyer might even be able to craft a sentence that mimics a SSOSA for someone who isn’t technically eligible for SSOSA and convince the prosecutor to go along with it.
Negotiating a Plea Agreement
Even if you aren’t eligible for or interested in a SSOSA, an attorney will help you navigate the system and negotiate the best possible plea deal if you don’t wish to have a trial. While the outcome will obviously depend on the facts of the case, your defense attorney may, for example, be able to get the prosecutor:
- to agree to let you plead guilty to a less serious offense (perhaps one that doesn’t require you to register as a sex offender); or
- to recommend community supervision instead of jail time; or
- to recommend a prison sentence on the low end of the standard sentencing range.
In order to ensure the optimal outcome, you need a strong advocate who understands what all of the options are and what typically happens in a case like yours.
If you have confessed to a sexual offense, the Marshall Defense Firm is here to help. Our experienced, skilled team of defense attorneys would be happy to discuss the case with you. Please contact us at 206.826.1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free consultation.