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Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Defend Me if I am Guilty?


If you committed a criminal offense, you might be wondering if you should still hire a criminal defense attorney. You may wonder if a criminal defense lawyer can defend you if you are guilty. So, can a criminal defense attorney defend you if you are guilty? Yes, a criminal defense attorney can defend you even if you are guilty. Some people might assume that when an attorney defends a guilty person, it means they condone the person’s actions. This is not true. Defending a guilty person is about upholding the principles of justice, the defendant’s right to an attorney, and due process. The legal system is designed to ensure that everyone accused of a crime receives a fair trial. All criminal defendants are entitled to legal representation, regardless of guilt or innocence. Criminal defense lawyers are bound by ethical obligations to provide zealous legal representation to their clients regardless of whether someone is guilty or innocent.

Differentiating Between Factual and Legal Guilt

There are different types of guilt. There is factual guilt and legal guilt. Factual guilt is what you actually did. It is whether you actually committed the crime. On the other hand, legal guilt is the determination of guilt within the framework of the criminal justice system. Legal guilt considers whether the prosecutor can prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal defense attorneys usually focus on legal guilt. Your attorney will focus on what the prosecution can prove. Their tactics may include attacking the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and questioning the admissibility of evidence.

Why Do Criminal Defense Attorneys Not Focus on Factual Guilt?

Often, criminal defense attorneys do not even ask if a person actually committed the crime. This is because criminal defense attorneys have an ethical duty to zealously represent their clients regardless of whether someone is guilty or innocent. In the U.S., all criminal defendants are entitled to a vigorous defense. Because it is up to the prosecutor to prove legal guilt and not the defense attorney to prove innocence, it usually does not matter whether a person is factually guilty.

Secondly, factual guilt is usually not a concern to criminal defense attorneys because one can never be sure if a defendant really committed the crime. Some defendants say they are guilty when they are not. For example, some people confess to crimes they did not commit to protect others. Additionally, even if a person committed a crime, they may have committed a less serious crime than the one they are accused of committing.

However, it is vital to note that while a criminal defense attorney can defend you even if you are factually guilty, they cannot lie for you. Your attorney can raise defenses to show the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, but they can’t offer false evidence or make arguments they know are false.

Finally, you should know that if you admit to your defense attorney that you are guilty, the attorney-client privilege prevents the attorney from disclosing that information to other parties.

Contact an NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, contact our skilled NYC criminal defense attorney, Mark I. Cohen, to get the vigorous representation you need and are entitled to.

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Avvo Reviews Mark L. Cohen


"... Mr. Cohen's effort... in everything he has done before the Court, is A-Plus... [R]ecently, in another case... [before me], the result he achieved for his client... was quite impressive." Honorable Kenneth M. Karas, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York.


"So I have very sophisticated counsel here and, Mr. Cohen, [your client] is very fortunate in having you as his attorney, and I hope he appreciates that." – Quote from the Honorable Denise L. Cote, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York.


"As Mark Cohen, a defense lawyer who has tried cases throughout the city and was a prosecutor in the Bronx, pointed out, there is a saying among defense lawyers in New York." – As provided in the New York Times City Room Blog.

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