The legal sector of the U.S. divides court cases into two broad areas, criminal and civil. The American Bar Association explains a criminal case is an examination of the behavior of an individual to judge whether they have followed the behavior expected in a community. A case will arrive in court with the defendant represented by a criminal defense attorney, who presents their version of the facts to the court. Preparation for a criminal case can take weeks and months to complete to provide the best chance of success.
1. Preparation is Key
The reality of bringing a criminal case to court is far different from the glamorized view of the legal system provided in movies and TV shows. The stance of a criminal defense attorney will be formed over a long period of time of research. Preparations can stretch into weeks and months, with every word spoken in the courtroom carefully planned by the defense team. The legal team of the defendant will complete thorough checks into the background of their client and read every document to help their case.
2. Determining a Case Theory
Entering the courtroom to try a criminal case, both the prosecution and the defense will have created a case theory. The case theory is a cornerstone of a legal trial for each side of the argument. For both sides, the case theory comes from the research completed into the case they are presenting. A defense attorney will form their case theory based on the evidence, witness statements, and the timeline of events they assemble. The defense attorney attempts to create their version of events to prove the innocence of their client in court.
3. Read the Complaint
Florida Courts Help explains the first step in defending a client is to understand the charges they face. The defense team need to understand the charges brought against their client and gather evidence to disprove each one. Using the complaint as the starting point for a criminal case is a good option because the defense can show what information has been left out of the prosecution case. Each jurisdiction, like Tampa, may have different rules.
4. Are Their Gaps in the Evidence
The case presented by a criminal defense team needs to be fully formed by the start of the trial. A general timeline and as much evidence as can be found needs to be available for the court to consider. The problems facing a defense team include gaps in the evidence that can make it difficult to prove innocence. The defense team will take their preparation time and create a strategy for presenting their evidence and proving their case. The order of presenting the evidence and the arguments needed to prove innocence will be addressed during the preparation period. Defense teams usually face gaps in the evidence or the timeline that need discussing.
5. Gather Documents
The next step is to gather the documents needed to prove the innocence of the defendant. There are lots of documents needed for every court case, including evidence and other legal documents. The defense team gathers the documents they need and assemble them into the order they will be presented to the court. Multiple copies of the defense case are needed for the criminal case to move forward, with the judge and prosecution team given copies of the defense case.
6. Select your Witnesses
Witnesses play an important part in most criminal cases and need to be selected carefully. The decision to present a witness to a court needs to be carefully considered to make sure they add credence to the defense case. The defense team needs to find witnesses adding to their version of events and present them in an order that makes sense.
7. Interviewing Witnesses
A criminal case will have a long list of witnesses who will present their version of events to the police when an investigation is taking place. A criminal defense attorney will interview witnesses during the preparation phase of a trial. The defense will present a motion to ask for the information the prosecution will present during their arguments. The information presented will include a list of witnesses that need to be interviewed by the defense team. A pretrial interview gives the defense the chance to learn the facts a witness will present to the court. Another important factor for a defense team is understanding the personality of the witness before the case begins. An angry witness will lose credibility in the court if they fail to keep their emotions in check.
8. Practice Presenting to the Court
Being unprepared is not an option for a defense attorney who wants to do the best job for their client. Practicing important statements is important because the judge should be able to follow the evidence of the defense.
Preparing for a criminal case is part of the daily life of a defense attorney who is trying to prove their client's innocence. A properly prepared defense case stands a greater chance of success than one presented by an underprepared attorney.