When a person is charged with a crime or crimes and they are sure they did not commit them in the way the prosecution argues, it may be tempting to represent one's own interests in court. But one of the best reasons to be sure an attorney is part of your criminal defense is an awareness of the legal landscape and how precedents can change the effects of laws.
- How do legal precedents work in criminal courts?
When the law is unclear the particulars of a case, such as the way a suspect is supposed to have entered a premises illegally or how law enforcement officers gathered evidence, lawyers may argue the merits of a precedent to a judge. This provides context for how similar courts have dealt with similar problems.
- What is an example of an important precedent?
A recent ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court holds that the definition of burglary must be limited in the case of applying crimes to the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The ruling suggests that the illegal invasion of specific spaces within a property, such as rooms or garages, cannot be counted as separate acts of burglary to enhance penalties under the ACCA.
- What is the probable effect of this ruling?
The precedent set by this ruling may change how prosecutors seek higher sentences or other penalties based on this law. It may also provide material for defense attorneys and their clients to fight additional charges as part of crimes. Lawyers often negotiate with prosecutors to drop enhanced penalties after precedents like this one.