This was not supposed to happen! How could such a thing happen? You’ve lived your entire life without breaking the law. Well, okay, maybe there was that time many years ago… but that’s beside the point. Nobody knows about that. But, now, here in Boston, today, you are going to be arrested. You are being investigated. Now, as you have read so many times in this daily blog, you need one of those awful creatures, a criminal defense attorney. What now?
Well, lucky for you, there are many of us around. In fact, in the Boston area, you probably could not throw a rock without hitting one. Many people think that that would be a great idea. But let me suggest otherwise.
As is the case in most professions, there are good defense attorneys and not so good ones.
First of all, let’s establish that you actually want an actual criminal defense attorney. In other words, Attorney Iliketowritewills who has helped the family through the years in real estate and other probate matters is not necessarily someone who has any criminal defense experience other than that one drunk driving matter he helped Uncle Charlie with 20 years ago. Attorney Corporatelaw may be absolutely brilliant in mergers and acquisitions, but that does not mean she knows what to do in a drug or shooting matter.
Each type of criminal case is different. The approach to a murder is not the same as it is with a white collar case Certainly, someone who has not even practiced regularly in the criminal court sessions is going to be like the perverbial fish out of water even though dressed in the same kind of suit.
The truth is, whether you are, in fact, guilty or innocent, going through the justice system as a criminal defendant is hell. You may start out indignant and convinced of your future win, but as time goes on and you find yourself eyed with suspicion, it is going to get to you. The sword hanging over your head is real and, as time goes on, it will become even more real to you. You will doubt, you will become nervous and the threat of what could happen will keep you awake. You will turn to the internet to find answers to questions and, not having the background to give you perspective, you will scare yourself silly.
Sounds pretty horrendous, right? Right.
So, one thing you can do to alleviate some of the horror is to pick an attorney with whom you feel comfortable. Someone you feel you can believe in and talk to so that he or she can make the situation as bareable as possible.
First of all, that person has to be experienced in criminal law. Otherwise, he or she can make you feel “as comfortable as possible” all the way to the gates of Involuntary Commonwealth Housing. Ask about his/her background. If you have an assault case, ask the lawyer about any experience with assault cases. If the lawyer gets defensive about it…wonder why.
When you speak to the lawyer, does what the attorney is saying make sense to you? Can he/she make it make sense to you? In other words, can the lawyer speak your language or does he only speak “legalese”? Guess what? You may have a jury trial in your future. If she cannot speak in an understandable and competent manner so that you can understand, what makes you think the jury will understand this advocate any better?
There are some attorneys who will try to gloss over all this because, somehow, he or she has the eyes of God and so can guarantee you that you will win. First of all, understand, that it is against ethical rules in the Commonwealth for an attorney to guarantee such a result. Second, that lawyer is either a liar or a fool. Run.
Don’t get me wrong. There is no problem with being confident about a case. Further, you want the lawyer to tell you what he thinks. Some criminal cases are bogus and appear to be unlosable for the defense. However, no case is unlosable and any attorney with experience knows that. Particularly if you are going in front of a jury, which you usually want to do if going to trial in a criminal case. There simply is no guarantee.
In any criminal case, there are good scenarios and bad scenarios and you want a lawyer who can see them both. This is one reason why having a lawyer who used to be a prosecutor is helpful because such an attorney knows how the other side thinks and does for a living.
Not only do you want a lawyer who can see the good and the bad, but you want one who will be straight with you about both. Some lawyers feel that the best way to communicate with the client is to give only good news. Some feel they should only give bad news so that they can look like a hero when the good things happen (assuming that they do).
I suggest that you want a lawyer who will be straight with you about both sides of the equation.
Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, it will be the perspective of that jury which will decide your case. You want someone who can communicate that perspective. You may even need someone who can dig it out of the muck of the Commonwealth’s version of events. Someone who simply shrugs the shoulders and tells you, “Well, then, that’s the truth so the jury will see it and you will go free” may not be accurate. It is not only the bare naked truth that is important…it is making that truth make sense to the jury members who, chances are, are people like you.
While you do not want an attorney who gives guarantees as to end-results, part of what you are paying for is someone who can give you good advice. Sometimes, that advice is going to be what you do not want to hear. That does not necessarily mean that it is time for another attorney with more pleasant news. If you have trusted, and do still trust, this lawyer, listen to the advice. Maybe you will follow it, maybe you will not follow it. But at least listen to it. Chances are that it will be more valuable than some random website that you read which suggestions may have nothing to do with your case at all.
All cases are not equal. We have many times discussed that results or criminal sentences are not either. Your lawyer is not going to change the system to operate the way you may wish it would. Instead, your lawyer is there to work within the system to give you the best defense possible at the end of the day.
You want someone who is experienced, effective and who cares about you as a client. Many lawyers become hardened after years of doing this and the fire of passion fades. You want that fire. You want that passion. No, not just because it makes you feel better that someone believes you…but because you want the fact finder at your trial to see it.
So, simply put, you want an attorney who is experienced and talented in terms of communication. You want one who will be straight with you and will be dedicated to your case. One who can advocate for you and make your perspective real in the heat of battle in the courtroom.
The attorney of your choosing may well be expensive. You will have to weigh that expense against what the experience of handling the case without such a lawyer.
By the way, I am a criminal defense attorney. If you check out my profile, you will find that I have approximately a quarter century of experience in the criminal justice system. One would imagine that if you read the blog or see the videos online, you know that I care about my clients. If you or a loved one have such a matter and wish to discuss it with me, please feel free to call me at (617) 206-1942.
In the meantime, have a good, safe and law-abiding weekend!