Having to go to trial for anyone can be stressful and scary. It’s even scarier if you’re facing criminal prosecution and your liberty is at risk. Hopefully you are represented by a competent attorney who has years of experience in defending clients. Even if you have a Perry Mason on your side, there is a lot that you as a defendant can do to help your lawyer prepare a defense.
1. Tell the Truth
Perhaps that seems obvious, but many defendants don’t share every detail they need to with their attorneys. Some are embarrassed, or some are afraid their lawyer will judge them and not want to represent them anymore. None of that matters. If your lawyer is fully aware of the entire situation from day one, they can help craft your defense much easier than if they are having to explain away a lie you told them months earlier. No lawyer likes surprises – much less in front of a jury. Tell your lawyer everything, even if you think it is irrelevant, so they can prepare for every eventuality in you case.
2. Prepare evidence
You will be one of the most important resources for your lawyer when preparing your defense. Give him as much information about any witnesses (especially alibi witnesses), including descriptions, contact information and acquaintances. If your lawyer believes bank account statements will be helpful, help him contact your bank to acquire certified documents. Give him any information or permission that he or she will need to gather the evidence to prepare your defense.
3. Ask Questions
Remember that your lawyer cannot read your mind. If you are confused about any part of the process, or are not sure what the outcome of a certain course of action will be, ask! Sometimes asking questions can reveal new strategies or information to your lawyer that they had not considered. If you are worried about how a plea bargain will affect your future or a collateral case – such as a family law or immigration matter – try to clear this up with your attorney. They owe a duty to you to advocate for your bests interests, which includes keeping you up to date on your own case.
4. But.. don’t get in the way
Ultimately, the final decisions made in your case should be made by you. However, a good criminal defense attorney will know the system and will understand what to expect. If you have questions, you can always ask, but you should not become a micro-manager over your attorney. Doing so will only hamstring their effectiveness in the long-run, and not allow them to make good decision. In essence, the ends of your trial is in your hands – but the means (or how to get there) should be handled by your attorney.
5. Don’t make their job harder
This is ultimately your primary responsibility. If you are lucky to get bail and go home while you wait for trial, be on your best behavior. Nothing looks worse to a judge or jury than someone who gets released on bail to then commit another crime. Not to mention, it means that your bail is revoked and you will probably have to spend the rest of the time waiting for trial in jail. Going out and committing another offense before your trial is one of the most damaging things you can do in your case. If this means staying close to home, or avoiding certain friends and acquaintances then do so. It will likely be only temporary, and could have a significant benefit to your case. The opposite could be detrimental.
You should not feel completely powerless if you are arrested and prosecuted for a crime. While you should feel confident in the ability of your lawyer, it is ultimately up to you how successful they are. If you do these steps, it will go a long way in helping your lawyer prepare a solid defense on your behalf.