A little over three years ago, I decided to venture out of the civil litigation realm and start practicing criminal defense. The idea of getting to court more often was exciting and I looked forward to pushing prosecutors because I was used to being the one setting deadlines and driving the case to trial. Now that some time has passe3d, a few things have changed in my approach to criminal cases, mostly from a lot of experience that has taught me that my ‘run and gun’ approach is not always the best for criminal defense.
Now that I have a few years under my belt, I’d like to give a few pointers to families that find themselves or a loved one in the middle of a serious criminal matter. This should help you better understand what WE, the client and the attorney, are going through together. Here are a few bullet points that should make both your life and the life of your attorney easier:
- Be careful what you wish for. When I first started I always wanted to push for a speedy trial. Older attorneys would use that line on me to help me understand that, although the families of our clients are hurting, speeding things up could lead to a worse outcome. For clients, sometimes the urge to get out of jail leads them to push their family members to try and push their attorneys. Don’t. Let me say that again… DON’T. Your attorney is not purposely delaying the case. The District Attorney’s office does not always turn over everything we need so we have to request it and wait. Would you rather have an attorney who reviews all the evidence or one that does things based off of incomplete information?
- Inquire, but do not harass. I always encourage my clients to communicate with me. Give me a day or two to get back to you if you left a message. Remember, you hired a lawyer that goes to court, so it is reasonable to think that I will not always be in the office. For younger attorneys like myself, email is a client communication game-changer. I cannot explain how easy it is to sit in court and respond to my client while I wait for another case to be called by the judge. If you have ever done anything in the court system, you understand that a lot of our life is spent waiting for hearings. Courts tend to frown upon people talking on phones so give me an opportunity to answer your questions while I wait. This also gives me a paper-trial to access when I need to recall our conversations outside of the office where your case file is likely not right in front of me.
- If the courthouse is closed, there is little I can do. Jail visits or meetings with family may occur after hours. I have spent many nights or Sundays visiting my clients after hours, but that does not mean I can get legal work done or scheduling approved by the court during holidays. Think bank hours only worse. That is the scheduling we are working with so patience is key.
You may be asking yourself, what type of cases does this apply to? I would tell you all, but let me list out a few types of cases we have covered this past year alone where this advice applied: Possession of Marijuana, DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), Domestic Assault, Assault, Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Sex Assault, Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver, Theft, Reckless Driving, Tampering/Fabricate Evidence, Failure to ID. Those are a few off the top of my head, but you can see that this advice is somewhat universal.