A criminal defense strategy is when a criminal defense lawyer figures out what the prosecutor wants to do in any given case during a criminal prosecution. For instance, if a prosecutor says that the defendant was at the crime scene, the defense attorney will come up with questions to prove this wrong. Different things can shape the defense strategy that an attorney comes up with. It can change depending on how the defendant answers any questions that have been put forth by the prosecutor as well.
What is Considered to Be a Good Defense Strategy?
Normally, the best defense strategies involve the truth. Giving a true story can work out in the defendant’s favor and get him a plea bargain, a lighter punishment, or even a not guilty verdict.
The thing about truth is that it can be presented in different ways. Both the prosecutor as well as the defense attorney can use the same facts and series of events to present two completely different stories in court. Though both scenarios may be true, they will be completely different from each other. However, it is the defendant and his/her criminal defense attorney’s responsibility to present the truth in the best possible way to help the defendant.
Characteristics of a Strong Defense Story
Any strong defense story should have the following characteristics:
- It should first and foremost be true. For instance, if the crime is a robbery, and the defendant’s car was used, then the defendant needs to prove that his/her car was stolen before the crime.
- The story should be able to garner sympathy from the judge and the jury. For instance, if the defendant can prove that he/she tried to get out of the plan of the crime before it was committed, and also tried to report it to the police, then there is a high chance that the judge and jury may not be as strict.
- The story should be able to prove what the defendant is saying to be the thing that actually happened. For instance, if the defendant says he/she was not at the crime scene, then there should be enough proof in the story to show the defendant to be somewhere else.
Different Categories of Defendant Stories
Most criminal cases will see all defendants giving their sides of the story in court. Two defendants will rarely come up with the same version of the events that took place. In most cases, any defendant’s story will fall into one of the three categories:
- A Confession Story: A confession story is when the defendant will admit to having committed the crime to the attorney. Whatever the crime, the defendant will agree to have committed it
- A Complete Denial Story: In this story, the defendant will completely deny any allegations that are presented against him/her in court. For such a story to hold in court, the defendant should ideally have a strong alibi to prove that he/she was not present at the scene when the crime was committed.
- An Admit and Explain Story: This story is a middle ground for the defendant. If falls between a confession and denial. The defendant may indirectly admit to having committed the crime but will also try to explain that it was not the intention. For instance, if there has been a home robbery, the defendant may admit to going to the property and getting something but may say that he used a key and did not break into the house, and the owner knew that he was taking something from the home.
Building a Strong Defense Strategy
Once the criminal defense attorney has heard the defendant’s side of the story, the next step would be to come up with a defense strategy that would give the best result for the defendant. This is not an easy job. This process often involves various aspects like weighing the witnesses’ credibility, understanding the relationship between the community and the law enforcement, and taking into consideration the defendant’s history. The defense attorney will take all of this into consideration and create a “theory of the case” that will combine both the defendant’s story as well as other proofs that may be present at the time.
Let us take the example of a robbery. Let us assume that a person is caught committing a robbery with his friends and there is an eye witness for the crime who thinks he can identify the defendant. However, the witness is not too sure of the identification. In such a scenario, the defendant will tell the police and the defense attorney his side of the story, which could be that though he was present at the time of the crime, he did not rob anything. He can also tell the attorney that the police did not inform him of his Miranda rights at the time of the arrest. With all of this information, the attorney can come up with a defense that indicates that the police don’t have a very strong case and the eyewitness account to make a case against the defendant is also not strong. Moreover, the attorney can also claim that the defendant was bullied by the police into giving a confession without being informed of his rights. Though this story of the defendant will be classified as a confession story and will be true, it will still show the defendant as not being as guilty of the crime.
In such a case, the defense attorney can file a pretrial motion. This motion will request the court to omit the confession given to the police from the record because it involved unconstitutional questioning. Not only this, but the defense can also question the eye witness to prove that the identification is wrong and does not establish that the defendant was involved in the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. With such a case, there is a high chance that the verdict could be not-guilty, or the prosecutor could offer a plea bargain for a lesser charge.
Preparing the Defendant for the Case
To prove all of the above is not very easy. Though the defense attorney knows the law and the courtroom well, it will not be simple for the defendant. Chances are the defendant will have to train to speak in a certain way and present his story in court. In most cases, the attorneys will use different ways to prepare the defendant like:
- Mock interviews to ensure the defendant sticks to one version of the story
- Take defendants to important crime scenes to jog their memories
- Make the defendant note down all that happened on the day of the crime from their perspective.
The defense attorney needs to inform their clients about all the information that the prosecution has so that their clients can come up with appropriate evidence to prove their innocence. At the same time, it is also extremely crucial that the defendant gives the attorney all the correct information so that they can build a strong case to protect them. If the defendant is honest with the attorney and gives them all the true information, then it will become easy for the attorney to either free the defendant of the charge or get a lighter punishment.
Individuals have different defense strategies that they can use in a court of law. Depending on the nature of the crime and the facts available, these strategies can help defendants either completely prove their innocence, or get a smaller punishment. Speaking to a defense attorney will help individuals understand what their legal options and defenses are, and how they should present the facts in court to ensure that they don’t get convicted of the crime.