Why Attorneys Cannot Guarantee the Outcome of a Court Case

Many of my clients, in both civil and criminal cases, ask me to predict or even guarantee how their case will be resolved. While I wish it were possible to do so, the fact is that no attorney can guarantee the outcome of a court case. This is because a variety of factors (such as the physical evidence, statements made to the police, credibility and testimonial ability of witnesses, the judge’s innermost thoughts, the parties’ appearance and demeanor in court, etc.) will affect the case in ways that cannot be predicted with certainly. A pair of examples helps to illustrate this point:

  • A client of mine, who had multiple prior convictions, was up for sentencing on an aggravated battery of a police officer conviction. The court found that the client kicked one officer and bit another officer. This client was facing the possibility of years in prison for this felony conviction, and the state had argued quite vigorously for a sentence of four years, while we requested probation only. The judge agreed with our argument, and imposed only a sentence of probation and fines.
  • Another client of mine worked out a plea deal with the prosecution, pleading to misdemeanor battery instead of felony aggravated battery. The client admitted to spitting on a police officer, and the plea deal called for probation – with no jail time. The judge, who was the same judge from the case mentioned above, rejected the agreement that we had reached with the prosecution. He sentenced the defendant to 30 days in jail.
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Although these examples are not necessarily typical, they show that it is simply impossible to guarantee how a court case will be resolved. In the first example, my experience suggested that the defendant would receive at least some time in jail or prison, given their criminal history and seriousness of the crime for which they were convicted. Yet the judge chose to impose not a single day of confinement to jail or prison. In the second case, experience would have led me to believe the judge would impose the sentence recommended by the prosecutor and agreed to by the defendant – yet the judge chose to impose jail time.