No lawyer worth his or her salt will lay odds on the success of a criminal case. Ever. But certainly not after a half-hour conversation during an initial consultation. A more meaningful question to ask a prospective attorney is: what will you do to prepare my criminal defense? Excerpted from the Schenectady Gazette, January 24, 1947.
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Now that I’ve talked to you about my case, what are my chances?
No lawyer worth his or her salt will lay odds on the success of a criminal defense. Probably ever—but certainly not after a half an hour on the telephone. While those criminally charged along with their families desperately need this kind of hope, it’s false. And those in their position should be wary of promises that they will get the best possible defense or that they have a “really good case” worthy of acquittal or dismissal. Preparation is perhaps the most important part of skill and a family seeking to hire an attorney. In other words, why leave to chance that which may only be resolved through hard work?
Granted, hard work isn't a guarantee-- but it is a necessary precondition. And a criminal defendant must look for the steps a criminal defense lawyer will take to prepare a defense.
Thus the better question to ask an attorney before hiring him or her is what will you do to prepare my defense? Will you need to hire experts or possibly a private investigator to conduct our own investigation and develop our own theories of defense or just put on a “didn’t do it prove it” defense. Will you talk to witnesses (or more likely allow a private investigator to interview them), will you review all of the electronic media available in the case and summarize for me?
Because experts and investigators do not work for the law firm you will hire, those fees will be extra, and the use of those experts will be a judgment call that you and your attorney will have to make together, based on the availability of resources and the need to hire someone to meet the prosection experts’ claims head on. For example, it may or may not be necessary to hire an expert in a complex, scientific case. It may or may not be necessary to take depositions. These are both additional expenses to be considered in complex cases.
The $64 million question “what are my chances” also begs an additional question: chances of what? Negotiated settlement, e.g., plea agreement, outright acquittal, dismissal? The uninitiated typically believe that hiring the most expensive lawyer should purchase a favorable result, e.g., a dismissal or acquittal. The reality is that most criminal cases settle out of court. Dismissals and acquittals are rare.
A criminal case is a marathon not a sprint. Despite frequent calls that the prosecution is so defective it should result in a dismissal, it will require your lawyer’s hard work to uncover defects in the prosecution, if any, and present an alternative narrative that for presentation to the prosecution and, if necessary, a jury. That process can only be distilled after months of collaboration between attorney and client as coequals during the defense.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Iowa, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889, www.daclawfirm.com, 1450 Boyson Road Suite C-2A, Hiawatha, IA 52233, for a free initial 1/2 hour consultation. Remember, though, that a blog is not legal advice and sending unsolicited information to a lawyer over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship.
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