What Does it Take to Win a Criminal Case?
At Berry Law, we defend people every day. In society, the criminal defense attorney serves as the watchdog, holding the prosecutor and law enforcement accountable while protecting the rights of the accused.
People accused of crimes often feel helpless and hopeless. Some are fortunate to have the support of family members and friends. Others lose the support of family members and friends when the charges are announced by news outlets. In many cases the accused is convicted by the public before he or she ever steps foot in the courtroom.
In this blog, we are providing information learned from Berry Law’s criminal defense attorneys during the past month, during which our attorneys obtained not guilty verdicts in First Degree Sexual Assault cases for clients in both Lincoln and Omaha. Here is what it takes to win:
1. Be relentless.
A criminal trial is a crucible or defining moment that will forever change the accused’s life. There is nothing worse than being falsely accused of a crime and feeling as if you must fight to prove your innocence. While the burden to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt always remains with the prosecution in court, the accused often fights an uphill battle to prove his or her innocence in the news and in his or her community. At Berry Law, we’ve seen a common trend in sexual assault cases. Those who won vehemently denied the allegations and never wavered from the position that fighting the case until the end is the right thing to do. Often during First Degree Sexual Assault cases, prosecutors will try to plea bargain, but the plea offer is usually still a felony conviction that requires sex offender registry. To most innocent people, this offer is unacceptable.
For those falsely accused citizens facing the most horrific crimes, their decision to dig in early and fight the entire way can be extremely helpful to their defense because it focuses on one singular result rather than other possibilities through plea negations.
2. Be honest with your attorney.
Criminal cases will often involve personal matters. The accused may be embarrassed or ashamed of things that have occurred in his or her life. It is important that people charged with crimes be completely honest with their attorneys. Any information a criminal defendant provides to an attorney cannot be divulged by that attorney without the client’s consent.
Nothing sinks a case faster than when an attorney has been blindsided because his or her client has lied about some facts that seemed unimportant at the time. When this happens, the attorney can lose all credibility with the jury. Furthermore, if the client has lied to the attorney and testifies, there is a possibility that the prosecutor will become aware of the inconsistency in the client’s statement and exploit this to discredit the client.
3. Understand the gravity of the situation.
In life, there are plenty of opportunities to save money, but defending a criminal case is not one of them. Most people charged with felony crimes understand that if they are convicted their lives will be altered forever. Attorneys who like to fight also like to have tools at their disposal to prepare for the next battle. Preparation may require the use of private investigators and expert witnesses in addition to attorney fees. In many cases, however, it is not enough that the accused hires the best attorney he or she could afford; the accused must also be willing to go the distance and spend the money to provide that attorney with as many resources necessary to effectively fight the charges.
While not everyone facing serious criminal charges faces a financial crisis, it’s not uncommon. However, most people who want to fight the charges take the long view of things. This means they understand what their annual earning capacity is and how much it would cost if they had to spend the next twenty years in prison. From that perspective, the cost of lawyers, court reporters, investigators, and experts seems very reasonable.
4. Trust your lawyer.
Criminal felony jury trials are often a team effort. While the attorney may go to the scene of a crime, review video evidence, read police reports, and examine other physical evidence, the attorney never has the same perspective of the client. For this reason, it is important that the client communicate with his or her attorney and provide all information requested. In some instances when a client does not trust his or her attorney, the attorney never gets the complete understanding of what happened, and the case narrative fails. Keep in mind that trust is a two-way street. In some instances, the attorney must trust that the client is telling the absolute truth in order to present the best possible defense.
Bottom line: Jury trials are a team effort. The accused must work with his or her lawyer to deal with both good and bad facts. When trials are not a team effort, the results are usually disastrous.
5. Have a support system in place.
In Nebraska, felony criminal cases may linger for a year or more before they are actually tried before a jury. The citizens accused in these cases are often stressed from the initial time of arrest until they receive the not guilty verdict from the jury. A good support system of parents, family and/or friends can make all the difference. A support system can provide financial assistance or emotional support to the accused.
Anyone facing a serious criminal charge knows how lonely the world can be. It is imperative that people charged with crimes have people in their corner who support them and let them know that they will remain by the side of the accused no matter what. This not only gives the accused the courage to make it through each day, but also provides the desire and drive to fight the case.
In conclusion, it takes guts to take a case to trial. From a risk mitigation standpoint, the accused might feel more comfortable taking a prosecutor’s plea deal. However, when everything is on the line intestinal fortitude is paramount. If you have been charged with a crime and need to fight to win back your reputation and protect your freedom, contact Berry Law.