Nobody but the Client Decides

In a criminal case, some decisions must be made by the client and not the attorney. According to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, “In a criminal case, the lawyer shall abide by the client’s decision, after disclosure by the lawyer, as to a plea to be entered, whether to waive jury trial and whether the client will testify.” Rule 1.2(a).

The Client’s Plea. The client, and only the client, decides whether to plead guilty. The lawyer may think that the wisest course of action is for the client to accept the State’s plea offer, but if the client does not want to enter a guilty plea, then the lawyer will take the case to trial. If the State insists on prosecuting a case, then the case must be disposed of either by trial or plea. Only the client can choose the path to take.

Waiving Jury Trial. The lawyer may think the best trial strategy is to try the case before a judge alone (this is called a bench trial) and not before a jury. But, if the client decides that he wants a jury trial, then the lawyer will try the case before a jury. This is because only the client can waive his right to a jury trial.

The Client’s Testimony. The lawyer may want the client to testify, but if the client does not want to testify, then the client does not have to testify. On the flip side, the lawyer may cringe at the thought of the client on the witness stand, but if the client insists on testifying, then the client gets to testify. This is because the client has the final say on whether he will testify.

Jeremy J. Richey, Attorney at Law
© Jeremy J. Richey and The East Central Illinois Criminal Law & DUI Weblog, 2008-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.