Being a defendant in a criminal case is not easy. It is incredibly stressful when you face the possibility of losing your freedom, property, money, reputation, and time away from your family. This is why hiring an effective criminal defense lawyer is essential. But some people make the mistake of thinking that all you have to do is hire a lawyer and then just sit back and wait for the magic to happen. But there is no magic. It takes a team effort that starts not with counsel but with the client. Let us look at what you can do to help your criminal defense attorney provide an effective defense for you.
I start every session with a potential client or witness with the same statement, "Tell me what happened. Do not make it better than it was or worse than it was. Just provide me the facts". Doing anything but telling your criminal defense lawyer the truth damages the attorney-client relationship. We are not here to judge, only to help you, emphasizing YOU. Knowing all the facts, it makes it easier to assess evidence and possible defenses and counsel you on the best course of action.
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK
If given the choice, I would prefer a client who "annoys" (not my words) me with lots of questions to one who asks none. We do not know about potential problems and concerns if you do not ask. I have handled thousands of cases in my career, and most clients have not. This is all new to the client, even ones with prior criminal histories. Today, with e-mails, video chats, and secure client communication portals, there is no reason not to take advantage and ask away. Remember, you are paying for our expertise, time, and advice and are entitled to access it all.
DO NOT PHOTOGRAPH DOCUMENTS
We often have clients who take a cell phone picture of a document and send it to us. There are two problems with this: 1) We can not read those well, and 2) The court does not accept photographs of documents. Convert the document into a PDF format; if we need to print it or submit it as an exhibit, we can easily do so.
STOP TALKING TO OTHERS ABOUT YOUR CASE
We get it. You are scared. Nervous. Curious as to how this can all shake out. So, you seek out other people, none of whom are criminal defense lawyers, to discuss your case. They have not read your case file, rap sheet, or the policies of the prosecutor's office nor reviewed the evidence. You are often asking fellow inmates or others facing criminal charges. We get it but stop. No one knows your case better than you and your defense team. No one can better assess what can happen at a trial than those who do it for a living. Too often, one can get riled up by some "sweet deal' you heard someone else receive while not being aware of all the pertinent facts in that case. This does not help your defense and surely does not help the attorney-client relationship. Remember that no two cases are alike, and your case will require a customized strategy and analysis for you.
The second reason to stop talking about your case with others is that you have no idea who you can trust and who is listening to your conversations or in possession of your e-mails and text messages. Those communications with others are likely not privileged, while your communications with your attorney are.
Remember, you are part of the Criminal Defense Team, and you can do your part to help us help you. We can handle the rest.