By Douglas Parker • December 03, 2019•Law School
Doing anything for the first time can be a nerve-racking experience. Handling a criminal law case for the first time is no exception. Imagine having someone else’s criminal record and future in your hands. The thought is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Being nervous is completely normal and is nothing to be ashamed of. Even the top criminal defense attorneys still experience this, especially for clients with a previous criminal record.
If you are facing your first criminal law case, know that being nervous is natural. However, ask long as you keep your head clear, everything will be fine. Make sure that you also consider certain situations and your client’s criminal record so that everything runs smoothly. Doing so puts you a step closer to becoming one of the top criminal defense attorneys.
Think about Deadlines
The most important consideration to take note of in a criminal case is the presence of deadlines. The top criminal defense attorneys know these deadlines and their loopholes. Here are some of the deadlines to consider:
- Discovery: Discovery is necessary for the defendant to find out details about the case. Make sure you file all evidence beforehand. The filing, fortunately, can be done gradually.
- Statute of limitations: The most basic of the deadlines to be aware of, of course, is the statute of limitations. It refers to the specific period up to which an act may be charged. The charge may be dismissed in favor of the defendant should the period of the statute of limitations lapse.
Take note that the criminal statute is applicable only until the charge is filed and the warrant issued. A significant factor to keep in mind is that there are workarounds if the defendant’s identity is unknown. These workarounds can depend on the state you reside in.
- Appeals: Appeals for criminal cases also have deadlines, and these can be quite short. The side of the defendant must be able to file the notice of appeal within 14 days. Extensions of up to 30 days are possible in exceptional cases.
- The other 14-day post-case deadlines: Several other deadlines are set at 14 days. These include the motion for judgment of acquittal and motion for arrest of judgment. It also consists of the motion for a new trial on grounds other than newly-discovered evidence.
- A new trial based on newly-discovered evidence: After a guilty verdict is given, the defendant’s side has three years to file for a new trial. This rule applies only when there is newly-discovered evidence to account for.
Judge or Jury Trial
According to U.S. laws, most criminal trials must be through a jury unless specific conditions are present. Among these conditions are:
- There is a written document from the defendant to waive the jury trial.
- There is government consent.
- There is court approval.
The alternative to a jury trial is a trial by judge. It can be tough for anyone to decide on which to choose. Make sure that you consider the following before you decide:
- There is no process of jury selection and jury fees for judge trials.
- Clients with a criminal record may have a bigger disadvantage for jury trials.
- Juries, more often than not, can be swayed by emotional appeals and statements.
- Judges usually respond to hard evidence. Go for a judge if you possess such evidence.
- Know the rules of evidence before you decide. Objections to dismiss evidence, for example, may still be ignored by juries but not by judges.
Finally, take note that there are times when the opposing side has a say on who will oversee the trial. The top criminal defense attorneys will push for the situation that will put their side at an advantage. Make sure that you prepare yourself thoroughly for either situation.
Think every part of your case through
Even the top criminal defense attorneys cannot help clients that do not think about the case thoroughly. Make sure that your client fully cooperates with you. Have them reveal their criminal records. Make sure that the client recounts all details of the event to you with full honesty. Clients with a past criminal record are usually at a disadvantage, so take note of this fact.
Most importantly, think every part of your case through. You may find evidence and alibis in places that you least expect to find them. These pieces can decide the difference between a guilty verdict and an innocent one.
Make Sure Your Evidence Is Admissible
Evidence is one of the most critical determinants of whether a guilty verdict will be filed or not. The top criminal defense attorneys make sure that all evidence is admissible, especially for clients with a criminal record. Many cases have fallen apart due to failure in considering admissible evidence. Here are some things to take note of regarding admissible evidence:
- The evidence must be relevant to the case. In this same vein, all evidence must have a relationship with the present case.
- It cannot be prejudicial to the degree of being unfair to either side.
- The evidence must be reliable. This reliability must also be proven.
- The evidence must have been acquired through legal means. Any evidence obtained in violation of the Constitution is not admissible.
- For searches, make sure that the proper warrants are available.
Preparing your client
Finally, make sure that you properly prepare your client for the case. The top criminal defense attorneys have their own ways of doing so. However, adequate preparation can be through the following steps:
- Educate your client about the law.
- Make sure your client is familiar with the evidence.
- The client should prepare for questioning.
- All statements should be consistent.
- Emotionally and mentally prepare your client for anything that may come up. It is especially true for clients with a criminal record and low morale.
Handling a Criminal Law Case Can be a Daunting Experience at First.
There are times that you will doubt what you have learned. However, know that even the top criminal defense attorneys also started out as new lawyers.