Every time there’s a big splash in the news involving a famous person who is accused of criminal activity, there’s always a lot of talk about whether or not the defendant is showing the proper amount of remorse for the situation.

Don’t think for a minute that prosecutors and judges don’t take notice. For a recent example, you only have to look at the reaction to some of the defendants in the college admissions scandal. Actress Felicity Huffman took immediate responsibility for her mistakes and expressed her remorse quite clearly to the court — and got a relatively light sentence even though the prosecution pushed hard for more.

Actress Lori Loughlin, by comparison, maintained her innocence and is now facing a slew of new charges — including money laundering and conspiracy. (If she’s convicted, you can just about bet that the prosecution will also remind the court of Loughlin’s failure to show remorse from the start.)

Whenever there’s leeway in the sentencing guidelines, judges will listen carefully to whatever aggravating and mitigating factors the two sides want the court to consider. One of the many factors judges are inclined to evaluate when imposing a sentence is whether a victim appears to be truly contrite. In many cases, a defendant’s level of remorse is even used to gauge whether they are likely to re-offend. Rightly or wrongly, defendants who don’t show enough remorse can end up being punished more harshly.

Showing remorse in a white-collar criminal case when you intend to plead innocent can be tricky. You don’t want to weaken your case. That makes it especially important to discuss your strategy with an attorney before you act.