There are two sides to every story in a criminal case. Of course, the prosecution has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but raising reasonable doubt is the job of the defense attorney. Credible reasonable doubt is raised through preparation of the defense. Every criminal defense attorney must take these steps in their preparation of a client’s defense. These tips can help a first time law student find their footing in defense cases and find ways to connect in the courtroom.
The Stack of Papers
At the beginning of any criminal prosecution, the defense attorney is provided with appropriate police reports, witness statements, evidence reports, and the like. A copy of the charging document is also provided. This stack of papers must be closely scrutinized to make sure it adds up to what the client is charged with.
Create a Timeline
The timeline helps attorneys understand the facts alleged by the prosecution in any case. It can even be used as a very reasonable doubt when the prosecution’s case doesn’t add up on the clock and calendar. According to Suhre & Associates, a timeline can be invaluable in a DUI case. Police are required to administer admissible blood alcohol testing after certain time periods. Timelines can also be instrumental in showing that a person may well not have been over a .08 BAC at the time they were alleged to be operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.
The Charging Document
Look at this document carefully, and break down the controlling statutes into their elements. Determine whether the conduct alleged of your client is consistent with the elements of each of the statutes. The prosecution must prove each and every element of each and every statute, leaving you free if they miss any piece.
Preparation of the Defense
Prepare a viable theory of defense. Address inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case and fill them with reasonable doubts. If you can blow a hole in the prosecution’s case with a single reasonable doubt, go ahead and raise it. That doesn’t happen very often though. Raise several reasonable doubts with the state’s case. Plant those seeds for jury deliberations. Always maintain a professional demeanor. Juries assess your credibility too, and that can impact the outcome of your client’s case. Speak plain English and not legalese, since you want the jury to identify with you in common sense terms.
The courtroom attorney you want to be is at their best when they’re on their feet. Ten percent of that is inspiration, and the other 90 percent is preparation. Preparation in your office is what makes you a sharp courtroom lawyer and can catapult you into a real career.
This article is from Brooke Chaplan, a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.