January 15, 2021 By Paul Wallin

What duty does an attorney owe to their client?

In the U.S. Constitution, the Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to an attorney for assistance with their defense. To supplement that law, Rule 1.1 of Professional Responsibility states that “a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client”. The client-lawyer relationship is extremely important, and lawyers owe a duty to their clients to provide zealous representation. When that duty is violated, it can be detrimental to the outcome of the case. Strickland v. Washington also states that “failure to investigate the facts may constitute ineffective assistance. According to Williams v. Taylor, failure to investigate and present a mental state defense may also be ineffective assistance of counsel.

People v. O’Hearn (2020)

In People v. O’Hearn, the Court ruled in favor of the Defendant and reversed the denial of his motion to vacate a guilty plea. The Court agreed that O’Hearn received ineffective assistance from his attorney in the court proceedings leading up to his guilty plea. The underlying offense happened in 2018 when San Rafael Police responded to a report that O’Hearn was acting erratically in front of two elderly women in his apartment complex. Both of the responding officers were familiar with O’Hearn and believed that he suffered from mental health issues.  O’Hearn was eventually arrested for threatening to kill his neighbors.

Wallin & Klarich Criminal Defense Orange County

In total, O’Hearn was represented by three different attorneys. He provided one of his attorneys with a detailed description of his history of mental illness which was not passed along to the court or the district attorney. The same attorney was also found to have been cited multiple times for failing to provide his clients with competent legal services and was publicly disciplined by the State Bar Organization at least four times for misconduct in representing his clients, and was also suspended from practice twice in 2005 and 2011.

What are the consequences of ineffective counsel?

O’Hearn was charged with a violation of Section 422, which requires proof of specific intent.  Also, one of the victims was arrested for providing false information to a peace officer in a prior case.  He had also made several threats throughout the years, none of which were acted on.  A conviction for making criminal threats requires specific intent, which can be negated by a mental disorder; Section 28(a) of the California Penal Code provides that “evidence of a mental disorder is admissible on the issue of whether or not the accused actually formed a specific intent when a specific intent crime is charged.  The prosecution must prove each element of their offense beyond a reasonable doubt, including the mental state and intent of the defendant.  Because of this, O’Hearn was entitled to an acquittal or a verdict on a lesser offense.

How Can Wallin & Klarich Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

Wallin & Klarich is here to provide assistance if you or a loved one has not received adequate counsel in a pending case. It is your constitutional right to receive adequate representation from a competent attorney.

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance, and Victorville, there is an experienced and skilled Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.

Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (714) 587-4279 for a free, no-obligation phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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