Decisions in criminal cases – Involvement in a criminal case can be the most stressful thing in someone’s life. There are a lot of things to consider, there are a lot of consequences to actions, and there is a lot of uncertainty. There are a lot of decisions to make. One of the most important decisions is whether to hire a criminal defense attorney (you should). From there, you must decide which criminal defense attorney you want to hire.
This, however, is far from the end of the decision making that you and your criminal defense lawyer have to contend with, and in this blog, we will talk about just a few things that may come up. Specifically, once you have an attorney, what decisions should he or she make for you and what decisions should you make for yourself? This blog seeks to answer these questions.
General decision making in a criminal case
Criminal defense attorneys handle criminal cases for a living. They are required to go through years of school, pass a bar exam, and log continuing education credit hours. They gain a lot of experience in handling criminal cases and observing criminal cases. This is what they do on a full-time basis.
Individuals who are charged with a crime typically have significantly less experience, significantly less knowledge of the criminal justice system, and significantly less knowledge of criminal procedure. If you have hired a criminal defense attorney, let that person do their job.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be an active participant in your case, because you should. The participation should come by way of getting advice and seeking to understand the situation from your lawyer, not second guessing everything.
The criminal case belongs to the defendant and nobody has a more important interest in that case than the defendant, but when conflict arises as to what the client thinks should happen versus what the attorney thinks should happen there are some rules that can help with that situation. Below are just a few:
Whether or not to take a plea
Plea bargains are a consistent aspect of criminal cases. A criminal defense attorney can advise someone on whether a plea offer is good under the circumstances. They can also explain what the consequences are of taking, or not taking, a plea offer. The decision on whether to take that plea, however, is ALWAYS up to the defendant.
In a North Carolina criminal jury trial, the defense attorney conducts the questioning for jury selection, consults with the defendant and acts for the defendant. The final decision on jury selection, however, if there is a conflict between the defendant and his attorney, belongs to the defendant.
Regarding conflicts in trial strategy, the final decision belongs to the attorney. If the client does not like the strategy that is going to be implemented, he can fire the attorney, but he cannot force the attorney to change their strategy nor can he dictate what the trial strategy is.
Criminal law is extremely complicated and difficult to navigate through. If you have been charged with a state or federal crime in North Carolina or South Carolina and you need an attorney, contact us.