Best Practices for Working With Your Criminal Defense Lawyer
When you’ve been accused of a crime, the right criminal defense lawyer can make all the difference. Too often, people who are unfamiliar with the Florida criminal justice system make serious mistakes simply because they don’t fully understand their rights or how to fight the charges against them. But, just hiring a lawyer isn’t enough. Your own actions will have a big impact on how much a criminal lawyer can help you.
Here’s what you need to know about working effectively with your defense lawyer:
1. Contact an attorney as early in the process as possible. Of course, if you haven’t already retained a criminal defense attorney, it’s better to do so now than never. But, there are several reasons it’s to your advantage to hire an attorney right away.
Having an attorney has the potential to help you at every stage of the criminal process. Even if you only think an arrest is possibly on the horizon, seeking out an attorney and getting their advice could make all the difference in the world. The truth is there is little more stressful in a person’s life than being restrained and then interrogated. Rather than going that alone, take steps to have an experienced counselor at your side. You’ll be glad you did.
Likewise, most average American’s are not legal experts. As such, it’s not uncommon that average people may inadvertently take steps that might hurt their own case, like making admissions or missing deadlines. So if you or a loved one are facing a criminal charge don’t go it alone. Get the help and support or a experienced criminal defense attorney.
2. Answer your criminal defense lawyer’s questions honestly and completely. It can be tough to open up to your defense attorney. You’re putting your future in the hands of a near-stranger, and it’s natural that you want that person to think well of you. But, the very last thing you want is for your lawyer to be blindsided in court–or even in a negotiation with the prosecution.
Your defense lawyer isn’t expecting you to be perfect. But, they need you to be honest to build the strongest possible case on your behalf.
3. Follow your defense lawyer’s advice. When you’ve been charged with a crime or are facing other legal issues, you’ll undoubtedly get a lot of unsolicited advice from people in your life. While their intentions are probably good, the outcome of taking that sort of advice is often very bad.
You may not always understand why your lawyer is telling you to take or avoid certain actions. You should always feel free to ask questions if something doesn’t make sense to you–it’s your future on the line! But, above all else, listen to your lawyer. Failure to do so can jeopardize your case and your freedom.
4. Avoid discussing your case with other people. This is actually one of those pieces of advice that clients often disregard, but it’s important enough to warrant its own entry. There are many ways casual conversations about your charges can come back to haunt you, including making statements that may come back to haunt you.
It’s easy to want to tell a significant other or friend about the facts that have landed you in hot water. While most of the time discussions with those close to you are innocent in nature, it is vital for any criminal defendant to understand that conversations with friends or paramours are not confidential. Further, if the prosecution learns about these conversations they could force those close to you to testify about them. Fortunately, criminal defendant’s don’t have to suffer in silence. That’s because conversations between a criminal defendant and their attorney are privileged and confidential.
Likewise, it’s also important to avoid talking about your case in social media or other contexts where everything you say will be documented and can be scrutinized later. Don’t expect “friends only” type settings to protect you.
5. Stay in communication with your defense lawyer. With so much on the line, you wouldn’t think a criminal defendant would need to be reminded to answer the phone when their attorney calls or send information along promptly. But, many clients in criminal cases are slow to respond or to pass along important information like witness names and contact information.
It’s understandable that someone facing criminal charges might want to avoid thinking about their predicament as much as possible. But, it’s important to understand that sometimes your attorney will need you to respond quickly. And, some of the information necessary to fully prepare your defense exists only in your memory. Your criminal defense lawyer will need your participation and cooperation to represent you as effectively as possible.
6. Never engage in self-help without consulting your criminal lawyer. Maybe you think that if you just talk to the victim, you can clear things up and the charges will be dropped. Maybe you want to check in with a witness and make sure their memory of events matches yours. Maybe you’re considering going to the crime scene to do some amateur investigation and see whether you can turn up some important evidence that police missed or concealed.
These are just a few examples of self-help ideas criminal defendants have that can be catastrophic. In some cases, these actions can even result in additional charges. If you have an idea about something that might help your case, discuss it with your criminal defense attorney. If your attorney agrees that interviewing a witness or getting some photos of the crime scene might be helpful, they have staff and contractors for that. Let the professionals who understand the most effective approach and who will know how to conduct the investigation without damaging your case or putting you at risk of new charges do the legwork.
The bottom line is that you and your criminal defense lawyer must be a team with a common goal. And, it’s important to remember that you hired an experienced defense lawyer for a reason. You are the client and ultimately many of the decisions are yours. But, your attorney knows the substantive law involved in your case, the procedural requirements associated with a Florida criminal prosecution, how judges and juries react to certain types of information, how police and prosecutors may use innocent actions or statements against you, and much more.
Never lie to your criminal lawyer, go behind their back to try to manage any aspect of the case, ignore their calls, or otherwise leave them without the information and cooperation they need to work effectively on your behalf.
To learn more about how an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer like Matthew Lufrano can help you, call 904-513-3905 or fill out the contact form on this page right now. The sooner you have an experienced defense attorney in your corner the better.