Are you a criminal defense lawyer? Navigating criminal law requires advanced strategies that can build the strongest case for your client. So, where do you begin with developing strong criminal defense strategies? Around 2% of federal criminal defendants go to trial, with the majority being found guilty. 90% of criminal defendants plead guilty instead. This means a criminal defense lawyer's case for a client can make or break whether they avoid incarceration or fines.
Here at The National Trial Lawyers, we have gathered the most advanced criminal defense strategies to help build robust cases for your clients.
When a client faces criminal charges, a lot is at stake. Everything from their reputation to their liberty is hanging in the balance. They often choose a criminal defense lawyer to help support them through the process, depending on the lawyer's expertise and knowledge.
Sometimes at face value, there may seem to be limited approaches to a case. However, there are a variety of criminal defense strategies that can build a strong case. Before you decide on your strategy, get to know the case. Take your time to uncover details about the case, gather evidence, and learn more about the prosecution's motives. This can help uncover the best criminal strategy to select for the case.
It is also important to come to a representation agreement with your client. It helps ensure you are on the same page, especially when it comes to tackling complex cases or using advanced criminal defense cases. Here are some strategies that can help build a strong criminal law defense. They focus on challenging the beyond reasonable doubt standard.
Presumption of innocence is a legal right, and there is a burden of proof that a prosecution must use to support the beyond reasonable doubt standard. Before any other strategy, it is important to check the evidence of the prosecution and whether their burden of proof is reasonable.
If there are gaps or no logical connection between the evidence and reasonable doubt, you can highlight many errors in the case. This is a reason to dismiss charges due to a lack of evidence that a crime was committed by the individual. There are many wrongful convictions that make reasonable doubt an essential part of criminal law trials.
If the passive form of defense by arguing innocence is insufficient for a case, you can also look at affirmative defense. This is when you undermine the prosecutor's case with evidence. Often evidence is in the form of an alibi or can prove crucial points of their case are incorrect or lack evidence.
Is there a chance witnesses falsely identified your client? Studies have found many ways witnesses falsely identify individuals and even give false accounts of crimes due to factors such as biases, visual errors, and the misinformation effect. Incorrect accusations or poor witness testimony can help you build a strong defense case for your client.
One of the ways to demonstrate that your client had no criminal intent is with an accident case. Did they unintentionally carry out the crime? If there is a lack of evidence for criminal intent, it can be argued that the crime was an accident.
Does your client believe their actions protected them from harm? Self-defense is a strategy that can be used in various cases, from sexual assault to murder. While it is a strategy used by criminal defense lawyers, it has layers of complexity.
In order to build a strong self-defense case, it is essential to focus on how the action was reasonable in relation to the proportion of the threat. Two starting points are looking at any previous history with other people involved and whether there was an option to leave the situation safely. You can also argue that your client felt in immediate danger or was under duress.
You can also focus on building a case based on the proportion of threat and action in relation to protecting someone else. A criminal law case may also be excused if there is strong evidence that your client acted in defense of others. Utilizing witnesses and background history is essential to work with this strategy.
Necessity is a defense used when an individual carries out a crime to prevent a greater harm from happening. It can be in defense of others, self-defense, or another cause.
To use this defense, requirements include that there was no other realistic alternative, that there was a specific threat that required action, and that the individual did not contribute to the original threat. The threat of harm has to be equal to or greater than the harm caused by the criminal act.
It depends on the jurisdiction whether this is a possible defense strategy for your client's case.
Constitutional violations are advanced criminal defense strategies as they require strong evidence of a violation. There are many ways violations can occur, from failure to read Miranda rights to lack of an arrest warrant. The gathering of evidence could have impacted your client's constitutional rights, or you may find the evidence was gathered illegally, so it cannot be used in court.
Constitutional violations can build cases based on reasonable doubt to reduce or dismiss charges.
As a criminal defense attorney, it is important to look at the law enforcement officer who stopped or arrested your client. Take the time to find out about their disciplinary record, training background, and other details that may impact their credibility.
Everything from the police report, their recollection of events, and lack of training and experience can be used to build a case based on reasonable doubt.
Why was your client stopped or arrested? Was there a reasonable cause for this?
A strong case can be built on the fact your client did not provoke sufficient suspicion or cause to justify the actions that followed. You can examine whether an officer had a predisposition about your client and no other substantial evidence that a crime was committed.
In 1968, the Terry vs. Ohio case determined that there can be a reason to stop an individual without probable cause. However, only if there are specific articulable facts. If there is no probable cause, you can file a motion to suppress evidence that was incorrectly obtained.
There are several ways that confessions can be improperly obtained, such as through sleep deprivation. You could argue that your client was vulnerable to coercion due to the circumstances of their arrest. Evidence of false confessions can lead to confessions being excluded from the case or even lead to the case being dismissed.
Mistakes by law enforcement could include a denial of legal support if a defendant asserted their right to legal counsel. Other mistakes can be protocols not being followed, such as sobriety checkpoints, challenges to lab results, and lack of anonymous reporting credibility.
You can also track equipment issues, and other processes that were not correctly followed. Mistakes by law enforcement can help reduce or dismiss charges.
Misconduct can include embellishing facts, doctoring evidence, coercing witnesses, or using unreasonable force on individuals who were cooperative. Entrapment can also occur if there is intimidation, coercion, or other acts, usually by undercover police operations, which can force individuals to go too far.
Insanity is an advanced criminal defense strategy as there are ways to see it beyond the medical model, with studies finding there is potential for a unified model by re-examining the medical one. Insanity is a unique approach that is only effective in specific cases.
If there is evidence of mental health difficulties or past episodes, there is the potential to build a strong case that the client is legally insane, and any charges could bring more unnecessary suffering.
Was the alleged crime made due to an honest or reasonable mistake of fact? This also supports evidence of a lack of criminal intent, which can help you build a strong defense case.
An example of this would be if an individual is charged with larceny but they thought the property was theirs. This mistake of fact proves there was a lack of criminal intent, which is a reasonable case for dismissal due to lack of liability.
Did your client have accomplices? There could be grounds to argue that your client decided to withdraw from the crime or choose not to go through with it, and that it was the accomplices. If you can show evidence that your defendant abandoned the crime before it was committed, you have a strong defense case.
It is important to continue to learn once you become a criminal defense lawyer. Criminal law is constantly evolving, and so are the criminal defense strategies that work best for cases. Follow these tips to develop more advanced strategies for your clients and look at cases from different perspectives.Would you like to learn more about how to improve your practice? Becoming a member of the National Trial Lawyers provides you access to invaluable information and advice to enhance your potential. Contact us today to learn more about our membership.