How Can I Help My Attorney?
Many clients ask me what they can do while their case is pending. For the client the case is part of their life and being proactive helps control the outcome.
Write Down Everything
You should take notes on everything that’s happened but keep the notes to yourself until your lawyer requests them. These notes should include anything related to events in question, your relationship with people involved, and the police investigation.
There are two reasons for this:
First, your notes might help you remember events later down the road. Your trial might be scheduled well past the events leading to the case. We all forget things, even important things. Don’t risk losing crucial details. Many trial are won or lost on the details of the case.
For example, take an assault and battery case where there was a fight. A year after the fight, you might have completely forgotten the content and language of a conversation leading up to the fight. The content of that conversation could have been the justification for whatever came next. The jury needs to see this.
Being able to testify to this conversation on the stand would be critical to your defense. You can’t get up on the stand and say, “we exchanged words, I don’t remember what was said, and then I just punched him.” The jury needs that context, needs those details, to help you. Don’t risk forgetting details with the passage of time.
A jury rewards a witness who can recall details. A jury is less likely to believe a witness who gets on the stand and says “I don’t remember” to every other question.
Look at police officers. Police officers write police reports to refresh their memory of an investigation if called upon to testify later.
Second, keep the report until your lawyer requests it. Sometimes, it’s best for the lawyer to approach the case with an open mind. Case strategy might not require your testimony. Let the lawyer look at the case and go from there.
Provide Accurate Information When Describing Events
Your belief of “what happened” in the case will very well be different than how others viewed events. This is understandable. We all have individual perceptions of events. Helping the jury understand your point of view may be crucial to trial victory.
However, be as accurate as possible regarding the verifiable facts of the case when you describe “what happened” to your attorney.
A verifiable fact is a fact that will be proven true at trial regardless of what you think. A verifiable fact is a fact the jury will assume is true.
To win a trial, you must be able to account for all verifiable facts. Your case will be derailed if your lawyer must try the case without knowledge of all verifiable facts.
For example, let’s say you are charged with retail fraud (shoplifting). Don’t tell your lawyer that under no circumstances did you put the candy in your pocket when you know there was a store video showing you put the candy in your pocket.
Your lawyer will look bad arguing you didn’t put the candy in your pocket when the jury will watch the video. And then jury will never believe anything else we say for the rest of the trial. The trial strategy must simply deal with the fact that you put the candy in your pocket. Your lawyer must create a strategy accounting for this fact. However, can’t just we pretend you didn’t put the candy in your pocket.
Accounting for verifiable facts is crucial to building credibility in front of the jury.
In this author’s experience, it’s much easier in trial to account for “bad” verifiable facts than pretend they do not exist. Bad facts exist in every case and we must deal with them head on.
Stay Out of Trouble!
This sounds like a no-brainer because it is a no-brainer. Nevertheless, it is an important no-brainer. You will make your life a whole lot easier by keeping your head down while the case is pending.
Let’s say we have an operating while intoxicated case headed for trial. The judge might impose bond conditions that include alcohol testing.
A positive alcohol test means the judge will haul us into court for a bond violation hearing. All of sudden, we’re spending energy and resources trying to keep you out of jail when we need to focus on trial preparation. A sympathetic judge might become less likely to cut you a break later if you’re not complying with court orders.
Making deals with prosecutors, sentencing, and probation requirements will all become more difficult where a client gets in trouble before the case is over.
Keeping a low profile helps your lawyer advocate for you and will improve your case outcome.
Be a Proactive Part of Your Defense
We encourage the clients who ask us how they can help with their case. You are of course interested in doing everything you can to help. It’s not like you just come to the office, tell us the charge, and see us three months later at court. There are many actions you can take to assist in your defense. We are more than happy to give you case homework, just ask.
Sam Bernstein is a criminal defense and DUI lawyer based in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
For More Reading
- ArborYpsi Law Blog
- Should I Take My Case To Trial?
- Plymouth Jury Trial Win
- What Happens in a Domestic Assault Case?
- What To Do When Pulled Over For Drinking and Driving
Call 734-883-9584 to speak with an Ann Arbor Criminal Defense Attorney