Every case that comes into a lawyer’s office is different. Each case has different actors, different facts, different problems and different solutions to those problems. When a lawyer starts working on a drug possession case they are going to go step by step to develop a strategy to assist their client. As a lawyer progresses through these steps the defense strategy becomes apparent. Remember a criminal defense lawyer’s job it to help you get the best possible outcome considering the facts of your case and your personal goals all while subjecting you to the least possible risk of a life altering consequence. When working on your possession case this is what you can expect a criminal defense lawyer to do.
1. Listen to your client. The first thing your lawyer is going to do is ask a bunch of questions. You are the gatekeeper to a large amount of information that is relevant to your case. You need to be honest with your lawyer from the get go. If your lawyer asks a question answer it truthfully and expound on the answer with any other information that may be relevant. Tell your lawyer everything, let them decide what is relevant and not relevant to the matter at hand, not detail is insignificant. You have to remember you are the primary source of information with regards to your case, sure there may be police reports, videos, statements or other tangible items that may be relevant, but you are the person that was at the scene. When you are talking to your lawyer remember the following:
Your lawyer doesn’t care if you broke the law. Tell the truth so he can help.
Your lawyer isn’t going to judge you. It’s not his job to fix you, just fix your problem.
Your lawyer has always heard worse.
Your lawyer knows that people make mistakes. No one ever comes into his office on a good day.
You don’t have to sell your lawyer on helping you or that you are worthy of help. Helping you when things aren’t going good is your lawyer’s job, it’s what we do.
2. Obtain and review discovery. After you talk with your lawyer, part of his job is discovering what evidence the prosecutor has against you. Your lawyer wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t find out what you are up against. The lawyer will do this through a formal process called discovery. In this part of the case the lawyer will request all evidence that the prosecutor has against his client and review it carefully. Sometimes a prosecutor will not turn over every piece of evidence that is relevant and it is your lawyers job to ensure that your constitutional rights are protected. A lawyer will file motions with the court and can ask the judge for an order to compel production if the prosecutor does not disclose their evidence. Aside from obtaining evidence from the prosecutor the defense lawyer may also do discovery on his own. Sometimes this includes visiting the scene of a crime, talking with witnesses independently or conducting scientific testing.
3. Use the law to your advantage. After your lawyer has heard your story, read their story and looked at all the evidence, he gets to work. A lawyer is going to use his legal knowledge and resources to try to use the law to advance your case. This usually takes the form of a motion to suppress. When a lawyer files a motion to suppress he is arguing to a judge that there exists a legal reason that some specific evidence shouldn’t be allowed against his client. There are many different grounds to try to suppress evidence and most are very technical. The difference between evidence being allowed and evidence being suppressed can be what a police officer said to you, the way a traffic stop was conducted, the duration of time before a search, there are hundreds reasons. Those grounds to suppress are almost always based in the fine details. This is why it is very important to tell your lawyer everything and be as honest as possible.
4. Minimize your risk. Another part of your lawyer’s job it to minimize your risk and protect your options. The entire time that a lawyer is working on your case they will be in some sort of negotiation or posturing for a negotiation with the other side. When you get a criminal case a big part of the analysis you and your lawyer are working on has to do with risk. Remember, if you take your case all the way to trial you will either win or you will lose. You will either get punished or not get punished. Depending on the severity of the crime you are charged with the risk can be huge. You lawyer must remain cognizant of that risk and your tolerance to that risk. A criminal defense lawyer always has to balance the risk of punishment, your tolerance to that risk and keep in mind your goals and interests. Sometimes it behooves a client to negotiate with the prosecutor when your goals and interests can be protected. The best example may be right after a defense lawyer files a motion to suppress on a serious drug case. The lawyer may think he has a really good chance of winning the motion and thereby winning the case. Shortly after filing the motion a prosecutor may come to the defense lawyer and offer a very favorable plea deal. It is the lawyer’s job in this case to weigh the risks and consult with the client. If the client chooses to take the favorable plea deal in lieu of risking having the judge rule on the motion, then the lawyer has served the client well.
5. Consider all options. As a lawyer works on a case it is easy to fall in love with an argument and believe that you can’t lose. It can sometimes be easy to push and push a case thinking you have a sure thing. A good lawyer never loses sight of the fact that a judge may disagree. Every time a judge makes a decision on a suppression motion, trial, or sentencing one side loses. Those loses have real world consequences to a client’s case and their life. A good lawyer always considers all options. Each individual court handles their cases differently, some courts have programs for offenders charged with drug possession. If a client qualifies for a drug program or a diversion a good lawyer will consider those options in conjunction with the possible outcomes of litigating the case. When you consider all options and present them to your client then leave it in your client’s hands to choose the path that serves their interests you are serving your client well.