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Chapter 3: Preparing For Your Defense In Court

Chapter 3: Preparing For Your Defense In CourtWhile you are busy staying out of trouble and keeping a low profile on social media, your attorney is already planning how best to defend your case. This might mean working towards a plea, or it might mean preparing an ironclad courtroom defense. Either way, it will require some effort on your part as well.

Two Crucial Topics You Need To Discuss With Your Attorney If You Want A Strong Defense

As a defense attorney, I often meet people in very difficult periods of their lives. They might be embarrassed or ashamed at what has happened, at what they have done. They might even refuse to admit it to themselves, much less me. But I am not here to judge. On the contrary, I need to defend you to a judge, and that starts with understanding exactly what is going on.

When it comes to building your defense, ignorance, and dishonesty are your foes. If your attorney is not aware of everything, they cannot help, and if you lie and are caught out in it, your outcome will always be worse than if you had come clean, at least to your attorney.

While you should always discuss everything openly and honestly with your attorney, two elements are of particular importance:

  • Your criminal history: whether you have never been arrested or have been in and out of prison already, I need to know. Your defense attorney needs to prepare, and you can bet the arguments and perspective of the prosecution will change based on this information, which they are always automatically aware of.
  • The facts of the case: You need to tell your attorney what happened in full honesty. Your communication with me is (mostly) protected by law, so you need not fear incriminating yourself and certainly not my judgment (trust me, I’ve heard worse). But if there is a difference between the facts relayed by the officer and what you are saying, that can help, but if there is a difference between what you said earlier and later on in court, that could hurt.

The more your attorney knows about what happened and why, the better they can prepare your defense. My job as a defense attorney is to help my clients, to help you. I cannot do that well if you do not tell me the truth. When you do not tell the truth, and it comes out, and believe me, it always comes out in the end: we both look dumb.

Worse than looking stupid, however, is having missed the chance to build a strong and genuine defense. If I know about an issue in advance, I will have a response for it when the judge brings it up. But if the judge brings it up and we are both caught like deer in headlights, you are the one who will end up sitting in jail or prison, not me. The cost of lying or hiding information is always on you. So, if there is something you have not yet shared, and I am defending you, now is probably the right time to pick up that phone and call.

When To Keep Your Mouth Shut Even To Your Attorney (Hint, I Will Tell You)

Every attorney has certain minimal ethical obligations about what we must disclose or inform law enforcement of if we learn about it. I will always be upfront and clear with you about this kind of information, and you may ask before sharing any information if you are unsure.

First, I will always be clear upfront about what I will be obliged to report if you tell me. Second, whenever I feel like my client is straying into territory where they might tell me something I must report, I will stop them. I will say I do not need to know and ask them to focus on the relevant elements of the case.

That is one advantage of having an experienced attorney on your side; we know how to prevent hurting our clients in any way and will always strive to avoid jeopardizing your defense. Ultimately, that is what matters: making sure that when you get to court, we have the best defense possible for you under the law.

A Guilt-Based Guilty Plea: Why It Won’t Necessarily Speed Anything Up

It can be natural to feel guilty about what happened and the circumstances that led to your arrest. You might simply want to get everything over with, but a guilty plea can take just as long to work out as a non-guilty one – and it will have consequences on what your final outcome options can be that you might not want to give up.

You should always make sure you understand the full consequences of pleading guilty by consulting with your attorney before deciding. If there are options and alternatives you would prefer, it might be better to plead not guilty at first to be able to negotiate a lesser plea later down the line.

When To Expect Your Next Court Appearances

At this point, your very first court appearance is already over. That was your arraignment hearing. You survived it, and you will survive the next, but it pays to prepare – and that starts with knowing what to expect and when.

If you were charged with a misdemeanor, your next hearing will generally be within 30 days. These are your pre-trial hearings. They give your attorney a chance to request evidence and discovery to begin negotiating your case with the prosecution. There may be multiple pre-trial rounds, each roughly 30 days apart. Generally, after two to four such hearings, we will know whether to make a plea deal with the prosecution or take them on in court.

If you are charged with a felony, there may be more time between these initial hearings, called “case settings.” There are likely to be several rounds, as felony cases are more complex and there is more at stake. As a result, there is more to investigate, and negotiations are more delicate and less amicable. Eventually, after up to two dozen case settings, we will be ready to agree to a plea or require a trial.

If your attorney can work out a plea deal that you are willing to accept, then a plea hearing date must be set another 30 days after your last hearing. But if there is to be a trial, then the timing will depend on court and judge availability. It might take as little as two months or as long as a year, especially if a large number of jurors need to be requested for your case. In truth, however, the longer between your arrest and your eventual plea or trial, the better because you and your attorney can put that time to good use.

Use The Time Between Court Dates To Help Build A Stronger Defense

Just because there is downtime between hearings and court appearances does not mean you need to be idle. Your lawyer should not be the only one helping to prepare your defense; there are always actions you can take that can be extremely helpful.

For example, if you’re charged with Driving Under the Influence, you will have an evaluation done to determine if you have a drug or alcohol dependency. This is an obligation regardless of the outcome, but you can show the court your goodwill and proactive desire for rehabilitation by getting it done early. Especially since the results may come in handy during our negotiations with the prosecution.

Such a proactive approach and forward-thinking attitude can be extended to the defense preparations for almost any crime. If charged with a sex crime, a sexual deviancy evaluation may come in handy. If your mental health is a factor, an evaluation could be useful evidence to strengthen your defense or undermine the prosecution’s argument.

While the exact actions will depend on the case and the charges against you, there is always something to be done. It might help you negotiate a better deal, be used as a mitigating factor during the trial or sentencing, or simply get something done out of the way that you will have to do later anyway. When it comes to your defense, it pays to be prepared and to show the court that you take your charges seriously.

For more information on Preparing Your Defense With Your Criminal Defense Attorney, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (425) 276-7390 today.

DC Nguyen Law

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(425) 276-7390

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