Criminal Defendant's Survival Guide: Helping Your Lawyer Help You
The first question I’m often asked when I perform a consultation for a potential criminal client is, “what are my chances?” Well honestly your chance of success is 50/50 on any given day. Your chances of success are also dependent upon how you measure success. You definitely increase your odds of achieving a satisfactory outcome when you provide good information to help your attorney prepare your case. This is true regardless of whether you go to trial, take a plea, or push for a dismissal. To help your lawyer prepare for the best possible outcome you must provide him or her with the tools necessary to mount the best possible defense. Here is some information that will help you help your lawyer.
It’s beneficial to provide the following general client information to your attorney at the very first meeting. Do your best to keep the information up to date and relevant.
Physical and mailing address;
Occupants in defendant’s residence (who lives with you);
Email address and phone numbers (home, work, and cell);
Military experience and whether discharged honorably;
Marriage (divorced, separated, etc.);
Children and grandchildren, including names and ages;
Nature of support for the children and, if applicable, grandchildren;
Previous and present treatment for mental health issues;
Physical or mental disabilities;
Medication and medical care currently under;
Prior and present substance-addiction problems;
Prior criminal history;
List of Witnesses; and
I often ask my clients to provide me written statement of points they would like to highlight or believe to be relevant. This helps me to keep the things that my client feel are important on my mind when I’m working on their case file. Some attorneys may or may not require this.
Understand the charges against you. Sometimes clients come into my office and they don’t know or understand the charges against them. Part of my job is to explain the technical aspects of the charges to the client, but it’s always a more beneficial discussion if the client has some basic knowledge about the charges and how the charges came about. It’s important for you to explain to your Attorney the events that led to you being charged. At the very least, try to explain as succinctly as possible, what happened and why the charges were (or will be) filed against you. Try to answer the following questions: what are you charged with; are you charged with a felony or misdemeanor; what court are the charges filed in; who’s prosecuting your case; who’s the complaining witness; do you have a case number; if you’re out on bond, what’s the name and phone number to the bonding company; have you already been to court – how many times; and have any other attorneys worked on your case prior to you coming to see me. If possible, provide a copy of the charging documents or any documents you may have received from the court or the bondmen. The charging document typically notifies the defendant of the alleged crime they have committed, criminal statute or code under which the crime is charged, and may include information pertaining to the complaint or complaining witness.
This basic information will help you to prepare your attorney to adequately represent you. If possible, try to hire an attorney as soon as you are informed of the charges. Do not wait until the day before your court date to hire an attorney. The more time your attorney has to prepare, the greater your chances of success.
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