Tackling a Criminal Defense Case – What Are the Essentials?

A criminal case is scary, but with the right strategy and effort, you can be confident in your defense. A lawyer will help you with the legal side, from what to say in court to filing motions. However, you need several steps to ensure you get the best representation possible.

The first thing to do is ensure you have an experienced lawyer specializing in this type of case. The more time they spend working on cases like yours, the more they will know what works and what does not when it comes to trial.

The second thing is to understand what happens after an arrest. For example, what happens if someone gets arrested but has not seen any changes yet? What happens when they go before a judge at their hearing? Knowing these things will help ensure that no one has their rights violated during any part of this process and give them peace of mind knowing how everything will play out beforehand, so there are no surprises later down the line!

Ensuring Information Availability

Before you hire a lawyer, actually go out and do the research. There are things more important than ensuring that you have all the information needed to make an intelligent decision. Again, it is your money, time, and freedom at stake.

Get the facts straight. You can make sure you know what kind of charges you are facing. The internet is a resource for learning about criminal law and your particular state’s law. However, there is no substitute for talking to someone with a specialization. If you do not understand what each charge means or even whether one charge is more grave than another, it should be no surprise that hiring the right lawyer could be a challenge.

You do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Your case can seem easy to resolve, but you should go online and check out lawyers’ reviews. It can be a simple way to learn how effective they are as lawyers and whether they treat their clients well. It is also critical to check out their website; some people may not feel comfortable doing this, but now everything is online, so why not?

Your Goal

You can ask yourself what you hope to accomplish by hiring a criminal defense lawyer and then decide whether those expectations are realistic.

If you are looking at a felony charge, it is vital to know the potential punishments. Also, what the most likely outcomes would be? If your case is in federal court, your lawyer will be able to help you understand how the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines apply to your situation and how they might affect sentencing if you were convicted or pled guilty.

Understand the Offense Thoroughly

The goal of understanding the offense is to know what you are up against before making any decisions. If you can not afford a lawyer or are defending yourself, it should at least be because you have made an intelligent choice to go forward without one.

Once you understand the offense, there are several questions that you need to ask to make an informed decision about whether it makes sense for you to defend yourself:

  • Can I win or get a better result by handling my case myself?
  • Do I have a good chance of negotiating with the prosecutor for a lesser charge or reduced sentence?
  • Am I willing to plead guilty?
  • Is this case important enough for me to spend time and resources on preparing my defense?
  • Should I plead guilty and move on with my life?
  • Are there certain defenses that apply specifically to my circumstances (e.g., self-defense, alibi, intoxication), which may not be evident from the allegations in the charging document?

Get Involved in the File-Making Process

Once you give the case file, you should become familiar with all the documents. These will likely include a copy of the police report, complaint, arrest warrant, bond order, and indictment. You should also obtain copies of any exhibits.

When reviewing these documents, remember that you are presumed innocent and only have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (or by clear and convincing evidence in juvenile cases).

You should also examine all pleadings filed by the state and other notices. In addition, you can review bail motion filings and any new trial motions on file. Take special note of any possible dispositions (plea offers) extended by the state.


Meet with the Lawyer


Talk with the lawyer. Even if you do not have a formal consultation with the lawyer, you must discuss the charges and your case to ensure you are comfortable with them and trust them.

You can discuss what you expect from the attorney (e.g., high communication, regular updates, fees) and ask questions about their background and experience handling cases like yours.  You should also get a copy of the police report from your lawyer if they do not already have one.

Start making a list of potential witnesses that may be able to help your case. Be sure to include both people who may be able to prove your innocence and those who will likely testify against you. If there is any physical evidence, such as videos, photographs, emails, etc., gather them and give copies to the attorney so they can begin reviewing them before trial.

Good Preparation Means Good Performance

You must be well prepared. A good lawyer will be able to explain your case’s process and ensure you know what is going on. Do not be afraid to ask questions!

Your lawyer should help prepare a defense, but it is also crucial that you help them do so by ensuring they have all the information they need. For example, you should get a copy of the police report detailing your arrest and provide it to your attorney.

If witnesses or other evidence are part of your case, a criminal defense attorney may need to speak with them. Since many people are unaware of how vital their participation can be in a criminal case, you must ensure your attorney knows about any potential evidence as soon as possible.