I have had the unique experience of taking cases to trial as both a prosecutor (on behalf of the government) and as a defense attorney. All of the attorneys that work for me are also former prosecutors. We routinely spend time in and out of court talking about the common pitfalls that a competent criminal lawyer needs to avoid, and how to avoid them. We often see attorneys making some very bad mistakes and that reflects negatively on everyone. So, the top five mistakes a criminal lawyer makes:
Mistake 1- Believing that the case cannot be won.
There is no such thing as a sure thing in the legal system. I have seen cases in the courtroom that are as air tight as could be, be lost. This belief that many people, including attorneys, have regarding criminal charges can be one of the most painful mistakes an attorney can make. There is always something wrong with a case, and if you work hard enough there are certainly steps you can take to defend your client.
We avoid this mistake by doing everything in our power to protect our clients. We demand evidence in a criminal case, we challenge the evidence, we interview witnesses – we do everything we can to protect our clients.
Mistake 2- Not filing a motion in limine, a motion to suppress, or a motion to dismiss.
Motion practice – it is the thing that scares some lawyers just as much as a jury trial. Motions are the method by which we strip away the government’s evidence – confessions, eye witnesses, statements, lab tests, drug test, and other pieces of evidence that greatly harm our client’s case. These motion hearings are often incredibly contentious with high stakes – if we prevail the State’s case is crippled, if we lose we now know exactly what evidence is admissible. This is an important, but often overlooked step.
Mistake 3- Treating the prosecutors like your friend.
Almost everyone wants to avoid conflict and confrontation. One mistake that lawyers often make is trying to befriend, or be nice, to the prosecutor for the sake of avoiding an argument. This is not to say that an attorney should be mean, cruel, or obnoxious – but this is an adversarial system, we represent our clients against the power of the government. It is the duty of the lawyer to remain loyal to the client, not the prosecutor.
Mistake 4- Not communicating with the client.
There is often no better source of information about what happened in a given case other than the client him, or herself. The client was (allegedly) there, they know what happened. This information may contain the very key to their freedom, and their innocence. Many lawyers overlook their clients as just being a client, rather than a very important source of evidence/witnesses.
Mistake 5- Not interviewing the witnesses, including the police.
These cases take a lot of work. Many lawyers simply take a witness list or a police report at face value. Not us- here we are constantly tracking down all sources of information regarding our clients’ cases. This often means long hours in less than ideal locations, but our job is to defend and that is what we do.
Call us at (440) 471-7784. Ask to speak to me, Joe Patituce, a Cleveland, OH Criminal Lawyer and Managing Partner of Patituce & Associates, LLC. The call is free and without any obligation.