A criminal defense strategy for your criminal prosecution will emerge as your criminal defense attorney finds out more about what the prosecutor plans to do in your case. If a prosecutor lays out a story that has the defendant at the scene of the crime, the defense attorney will probably ask questions that may lay out a different story showing the defendant at another location. Additionally, how the criminal defendant acts and answers questions that the prosecutor poses can also change the criminal defense strategy.
The best criminal defense strategy comes when the defendant and the defense attorney present a story that is based in truth and shows the defendant in the best light possible. Depicting a story in a better light could lead to a plea bargain, conviction on a lesser charge, or even a finding of not guilty.
Criminal Defense: The "Truth"
A prosecutor and a defense attorney can both use the same foundation of factual events and come up with two completely different stories. Think of this in the way that you would think of a map of the United States. In one map, you have the states depicted in their geographic areas with the state borders in dark lines. However, the other map instead shows the United States in a gradient scale of colors based upon the average income per population. Although both maps are true, they will probably look nothing alike.
It's up to the attorney and the defendant to come up with the best story possible for the defendant's situation. The end story should have such characteristics as:
Denials and Admissions of Guilt
It's almost impossible for two defendants to come up with the exact same version of the events that took place during the crime. Generally speaking, a defendant's story will fall into one of three categories:
Creating a Criminal Defense Strategy
After the criminal defendant tells their story to their criminal defense attorney, they will probably collaborate to come up with a strategy that will work best. Coming up with a defense strategy isn't as simple as telling the truth in a way that shows the defendant's innocence or lessened legal culpability. Instead, it will often involve weighing witnesses' credibility, figuring out the reputation between the community and the police. All of these considerations will go into making a "theory of the case" that will be based upon the defendant's story as well as other provable facts.
Suppose that a criminal defendant has been charged with burglary. The defendant goes to an attorney's office and tells their story, which they also confessed to the police after being arrested. Apparently, the man was identified by an eyewitness shortly after the burglary took place. The witness isn't certain of the identification, but is "pretty sure" he got the right face. The defendant tells his attorney that, although he was present at the scene of the crime, he didn't take part in the execution of the crime, but he went along so that his friends wouldn't think less of him. Additionally, when the defendant was arrested, the police didn't inform the defendant of their right to be silent or the right to have an attorney present when questioned.
This story would best be classified as a "confession" story because the defendant knew about the crime and was present while it was committed. However, the defense strategy would most likely be based upon a theory that the police used a weak eyewitness's account to make a stronger case then they should have and bullied the defendant into giving a confession. This is a theory that is based in truth and shows the defendant in a better light.
The defense attorney would probably file a pre-trial motion asking for the confession to the police to be omitted from the record because the police engaged in an unconstitutional questioning by not reading the defendant a Miranda warning. In addition, the defense attorney would also probably try to question the eyewitness and show that the identification was so flimsy that it would not establish "beyond a reasonable doubt" the true identify of the perpetrator. This theory could have its goal for the case to come back with a verdict of not-guilty, or for the prosecutor to offer a plea bargain to a lesser charge.
In many situations, defense attorneys will:
Defense attorneys should tell clients about various pieces of information about the prosecution's case so that the defendant knows what kinds of evidence they need to produce. For example, suppose that Dennis has been charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Dennis' attorney could tell him:
"Dennis, you're being charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery. This means that you're being charged with planning with at least one other person to commit armed robbery and have taken steps towards achieving this goal. In speaking with the assistant district attorney about your case, I now know that they plan on showing that you purchased a gun after talking with Frank and George. They claim that your talk with Frank and George was to plan the armed robbery and that your purchase of the gun was in furtherance of the crime. Now, do you have anything to tell me about your purchase of the gun or your talk with Frank and George?"
Because Dennis has this information, he will be in better position to give the defense attorney the story that explains the gun purchase. For example, Dennis could have bought the gun to defend himself from Frank and George who said they would hurt him if he didn't participate in the discussed armed robbery. Then, the purchase of the gun wouldn't be in furtherance of the crime.
The Truth Could Set You Free . . . In a shorter amount of time
Another reason that defendants should tell their defense attorneys the complete truth is that it could lead to a lesser charge. If, for example, a defendant is charged with armed robbery, and the defendant tells his attorney that, yes, he did rob the store, but not with any weapon, this could reduce the charge to simple robbery, a much less serious crime in terms of potential jail time.
Learn More About Legal Defenses from an Attorney
There are various criminal defense strategies that may be available to you depending on the nature of your case and the individual facts. Whether you hope to plead "truth" or completely deny the allegations, a criminal defense attorney will be able to best explain all your options and what defenses may be raised in your case. Start learning more today by contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer near you.