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Pretrial conferences: Why your choice of attorney matters

Pretrial conferences put a lot of pressure on criminal defendants to plead guilty. They're often the last formal negotiations between the prosecution and the defense. If your defense attorney can't convince the prosecutor to drop the case or at least lower the charges to something more reasonable, you know you're heading to trial—which is an unpleasant feeling for anyone. If that isn't bad enough, the prosecution may make its best offer to date, just to press you a little harder into a plea deal.

The courts have a vested interest in trying to resolve as many criminal cases before trial as possible. For one reason, every case that gets a plea of either "guilty" or "no contest" goes down as a win in the prosecution's book. That helps make the courts look effective and tough on crime. Another reason is that trials are time-consuming and expensive—the less effort that's put into a case, the less it costs the state in the end.

These are the exact same reasons that you want to have an experienced criminal defense attorney helping you through this process—otherwise, you could find yourself being pushed into an unnecessary guilty plea on a case that's weak and heavily flawed.

While public defenders will do their best for their clients and not encourage a guilty plea just to save the state a few dollars, they typically don't have the time to fully investigate all of the available evidence against you. A weak case can seem formidable when its defects are buried under a mountain of mostly irrelevant material.

Prosecutors know the problems faced by public defenders and will use that to their advantage to get defendants to accept plea bargains that aren't in their best interest or are unnecessarily harsh, particularly for white collar crimes. White collar criminal investigations can be incredibly complex, expensive and time-consuming to pursue.

While only you can make the decision about whether or not to accept a plea deal that's being offered by the state, having an experienced defense attorney can help you see the offer in a less-emotional light. He or she can counsel you about the actual strength of the prosecution's case and any other factors that could sway a jury in either direction. That can help you make an informed choice about your future, instead of one that's made under the stress of the moment.

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