If you are facing a criminal investigation or have been arrested, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the criminal justice system and ensure you are treated fairly. Here is the problem – how do you know that your criminal attorney is taking the steps necessary to help you obtain a favorable result?
In this article, I want to explain some basic steps that the best criminal defense attorneys take in order to consistently obtain remarkable results for their clients. Every criminal case is unique, and these steps being taken do not necessarily guarantee someone a dismissal of their charges. However, failure by a criminal defense lawyer to take these measures could put you in a position where you miss an opportunity to get your case dismissed.
Step Number One – Investigate The Crime
The basic requirement for any criminal defense attorney to assist their client in obtaining a favorable result on their case is to investigate the charges. How does this happen? First, your criminal lawyer should gain access to police reports, videos, witness statements, lab reports and other digital media evidence relevant to the case. Secondly, your criminal defense team should review the “information” if your charge is a misdemeanor crime, or the “complaint” or “indictment” if it is a felony crime. The information or complaint is the charging document used by the State of Texas to allege the specific elements of the crime you or your loved one is alleged to have committed. The State of Texas, through the District Attorney’s Office, must allege the manner and means of how the crime was committed and the specific elements of the crime.
For example, if you have been charged with the crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, you lawyer should analyze the felony complaint and determine who the alleged victim is, what the manner and means of the crime entails (for example – pointed a gun or shot the gun at the alleged victim) and then compare the charging document with the police reports and other digital media evidence.
Step Number Two – Analyze The Evidence
After gathering all the evidence through discovery motions, your criminal defense lawyer should sit down and compare the police reports with the witness statements and other evidence to determine if the State of Texas can meet their burden of proof in a jury trial.
Under U.S and Texas Constitutional Law, the prosecutor has the burden to prove each and every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to prove even a single element of a crime should result in a not guilty verdict at a jury trial or a dismissal in court. This reality is one of the best leverage points for an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney. Your criminal attorney should be poking holes in the evidence to establish all the doubts in logic surrounding the State’s case and use this to your advantage in negotiations and the resolution of the case.
For example, we have seen instances where a police report was filled with conclusory statements that provided little actual evidence to establish a crime. After combing through each individual witness statement, it was clear that each witness was confused about what they observed and merely pointed a finger at our client. A hunch or a guess that someone is guilty is not sufficient in criminal court! We used this to our advantage to demand a dismissal of all criminal charges in court.
Step Number Three – Attorney/Client Meeting To Obtain Your Side Of The Story!
After obtaining the evidence from the State, analyzing the evidence thoroughly and formulating an understanding of the case, your criminal lawyer MUST meet with you to get your side of the story. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common steps that many criminal attorneys fail to take advantage of with criminal cases. How can your lawyer prepare a winning legal defense strategy without getting your input?
At this meeting between attorney and client, the client should share everything with their lawyer and hold nothing back so that their criminal attorney is adequately prepared to prepare a winning defense. The client should thoroughly review every piece of evidence and provide context behind what led up to the facts and a deeper understanding of how things took place.
For example: we have represented clients where the video only showed a portion of what happened but after our client explained what happened off-video, we were able to establish a better understanding of what could be presented to a grand jury for a possible no bill and exoneration of the felony charges.
Step Number Four – Your Criminal Attorney Should Defend You!
It sounds obvious, but your criminal lawyer should defend you! Let us identify what we mean by “defending you.” One of the most important aspects of criminal defense is making certain that a client’s constitutional rights were not violated. Some classic examples of Constitutional rights that a seasoned criminal lawyer will analyze include:
- Illegal Traffic Stop – did the police officer pull you over for a legal reason? What if he pulled you over because he did not like how you looked, or he had a “hunch” you were doing something wrong? The best criminal attorneys understand that an issue like this is one of the quickest ways to get a criminal case dismissed. It is not uncommon for police officers to create police reports that do not articulate the legal basis for a traffic stop. Additionally, video evidence may also show that the legal basis for the stop provided by the officer was not accurate. Never be afraid to ask your criminal lawyer if your traffic stop was legal under the law!
- Illegal Search And Seizure – were you arrested based upon evidence obtained from a search by law enforcement? If so, it is critical to determine if the arrest was legal. Police officers must have probable cause in order to execute a search. If you were searched based upon a search warrant, your criminal attorney should analyze the four corners of the search warrant and the search warrant affidavit. Did the affidavit provide sufficient facts to establish probable cause? If not, your search may have been illegal. If your search was based upon a warrantless search, your criminal attorney must thoroughly analyze if the police officer had sufficient evidence to establish probable cause to search you. For example, merely acting “suspicious” after a traffic stop is not a legal basis for a search. An illegal search can be the basis for your criminal case to be dismissed.
- Miranda Rights Violation – did a police officer ask you questions during your arrest? Did he read you your rights? We all know that a police officer should read you your rights when being investigated. However, what many people do not know is that Miranda rights are only applicable to confessions. In other words, if the police officer did not ask you any questions, it does not matter that he did not Mirandize you under the law. However, if you were being detained (not free to leave) and being interrogated by the police officer, the officer must read you your Miranda Rights and you must affirmatively waive your rights in order for the officer to use your statements against you in court. Good criminal lawyers thoroughly analyze the encounter between their client and the police officer to determine if their Miranda rights were violated. If so, your lawyer can file a motion and have a hearing to have your statements excluded from consideration at a jury trial.
So, what should you do if your rights have been violated? Your criminal lawyer can file a motion to suppress the evidence. A motion to suppress is a tool used by the best criminal defense attorneys to attack improper acts by the police to throw out evidence obtained illegally. Upon filing the motion, your lawyer can demand a hearing and a judge can make a ruling. If the judge rules in your favor, the case will likely be dismissed.
You know you are dealing with the best criminal attorney when the lawyer never tries to make you take a plea deal. Accepting or rejecting a plea deal should always be the decision of the client, not the attorney. The best criminal lawyers counsel their clients on the cost/benefit analysis of taking a plea deal or going to trial, but they never force a client in either direction. At the end of the day, it is your life, and you should be able to make the major decision regarding a plea deal.
Additionally, when we talk about thoroughly advocating for a client, your criminal lawyer should be willing to push a case as far as it needs to go in order to get the best result. It is not uncommon for offers from a prosecutor to dramatically improve as the case gets closer to a trial. Circumstances can change. Witnesses can become unavailable. The sheer weight of the trial docket and pressure from the judge to move cases can provide opportunities for you that did not previously exist if your attorney is willing to advocate for you all the way up to trial.
Finally, criminal defense attorneys that provide the best representation for their clients will present their clients with the best options for resolution. For example, if you are a first-time offender, are there unique ways for you to get your criminal case dismissed. In Texas, it is not uncommon for first-time offenders to qualify for pre-trial diversion programs that provide an opportunity for their case to be dismissed and expunged from their criminal record.
Additionally, your criminal lawyer may be able to provide you an option for a conditional dismissal. A conditional dismissal is a way to get your case dismissed in exchange for you completing certain terms and conditions. For example, a prosecutor may agree to dismiss your case in exchange for you completing community service hours, classes, or donations to a charity.
It may also be possible to get your criminal charge lowered to a lesser charge. For example, we have had many first-time shoplifting cases negotiated down to a ticket level criminal offense that provided eligibility for a dismissal and expunction. The best criminal lawyers consider all of these options and simultaneously pursue multiple paths that provide opportunities for their client’s case to be dismissed and eligible to be removed from their criminal record.
Our philosophy at The Hampton Law Firm is to achieve three goals for all of our clients:
- Stay Out Of Jail
- Avoid Conviction
- Clear Your Criminal Record
However, if trial is necessary, your criminal attorney should never be afraid of trial. Your lawyer must be willing to fight for your exoneration. That is why our attorneys at the Hampton Law Firm have a combined experience of over 85 years and have tried over 550 criminal jury trials in the courts of North Texas. Although 95% of criminal cases do not go to trial, that does not mean that you do not need an experienced criminal lawyer with trial experience. Prosecutors and judges know who the good attorneys are, and it affects the outcome for negotiations and the resolution of cases.