Conceding Guilt at Trial
Sometimes criminal defense attorneys have to defend a case where the evidence against the accused is insurmountable on some or all of the charges. In cases where some of charges are a “slam dunk” for the prosecutors, a defense attorney may make the strategic decision to concede guilt on these charges and defend against the remaining charges only.
In a recent decision by the Nevada Supreme Court, the Court decided a case such as this and held what duties, if any, a criminal defense attorney has when making a strategic decision to concede guilt.
In Hernandez v. State, the Nevada Supreme Court held that in order to concede guilt at the time of trial, a canvass of the defendant must be held by the court, outside the presence of the prosecuting attorney and jury to make sure the defendant understands all the ramifications of this plea. But, in Armenia-Carpio v. State, the Nevada Supreme Court overruled this prior decision, holding instead that a decision to concede guilt is a strategic decision – nothing more, nothing less. The Courts prior rationale in Hernandez basically equated a decision to concede guilt as the functional equivalent of a guilty plea.
However, in Armenta-Carpio, decided July 25,2013, the Court ultimately held that a canvass was not necessary when deciding to concede guilt. In making this decision, the Nevada Supreme Court aligned its holding with that of the United States Supreme Court.