Best Practices for Working with Your Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime, you need a criminal defense attorney. Criminal charges have the potential to impact every aspect of your life, from impeding your ability to exercise basic rights to completely taking away your freedom as you know it. Even if you are not convicted, having criminal charges on your record can affect your personal and professional life interfering with your education, career options, and even your living arrangements. 

Because so much is at stake, you must have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your team protecting your rights and freedoms while employing an effective defense strategy in your case. Having effective counsel is more than just something you should do. It is a constitutional right and if you cannot afford to hire an attorney on your own, the government will appoint an attorney to represent you. But having effective counsel is not just dependent on the lawyer. It requires work on your end as well. To ensure you get the best from your attorney, here are a few best practices for working with your criminal defense attorney: 

  1. Be responsive. In the court system, there are time-sensitive deadlines that if missed, can have dire consequences that include things like waiving certain defenses. Therefore, for your criminal defense attorney to provide effective counsel, you must be responsive. If you reach out to your attorney with a question, you are going to expect a response. Likewise, your attorney expects a response from you. Act quickly in returning phone calls and producing requested information. 
  2. Be honest. Do not set yourself, or your attorney, up for a surprise. Be forthcoming and truthful with your attorney, erring on the side of oversharing. Let your attorney decide what information is pertinent and useful in your defense, rather than assuming something does not matter and withholding it. Unfortunately, in a criminal case, there are rarely secrets. This means that if you try to hide something from your attorney, it will likely be discovered by the prosecution and instead of your attorney being prepared to handle the information, your defense could be thwarted by the disclosure as the prosecution uses the information against you in court.
  3. Follow directions. Your attorney knows what is best for you. He or she has a professional and ethical duty to act in your best interests. As your advocate, your attorney will provide you with important instructions to allow him or her to deliver effective representation and a strong defense in your case. You must follow all directives from your attorney, including abstaining from those activities that could hurt your case or impede your defense strategy. 
  4. Only discuss your case with your attorney. Frustrated with the court process? Angry about a question the prosecutor asked you? Remember something about the arrest that you have not mentioned before? Avoid venting on social media or unloading all the details for your friends or family. It is best to discuss your case and any of the circumstances leading up to your case with your defense attorney only. Speaking to others may interfere with your case, making certain things admissible that could not otherwise be used against you, or nullifying privilege attached to certain information. 

Your criminal defense attorney is responsible for applying his or her knowledge and expertise to investigate the facts, identify evidence to prevent the prosecution from getting a conviction, and protect your rights. However, your attorney is only as effective as you make them. As the client, it is your responsibility to provide your attorney with the tools needed to deliver effective counsel and a strong defense strategy by being a responsive and honest client who follows directions and abstains from discussing the case with anyone other than your attorney.