How an Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer Tackles a Case
Kyle J. Bristow, Copyright© 2012
Lawyers tend to have different styles as to how they approach criminal cases. Less aggressive attorneys tend to readily accept plea deals instead of mounting much of a defense, while more aggressive lawyers tend to fight the charges with more vigor. With criminal law—like everything else in life—, one gets what one pays for, and if one’s lawyer is willing to represent a criminal defendant at an extremely low rate, then that lawyer is unlikely to be willing to spend many hours on the case.
In order for a lawyer to seriously mount a defense to a criminal matter, there are a number of things that they should consider doing:
1. File a request for discovery
A request for discovery requires that the prosecutor divulge to the lawyer for the defendant any evidence that they plan to use at trial, along with evidence that is exculpatory. Only by filing a request for discovery is a lawyer able to determine whether the prosecutor has ample evidence to present a prima facie case to establish the guilt of the defendant.
2. File a Motion to Request a Bill of Particulars
Sometimes the charging document made against the criminal defendant fails to set forth in sufficient detail the facts surrounding the case. By filing such a motion, the defense attorney is better situated to figure out the narrative that the prosecutor wishes to tell the factfinder—be it the judge or jury—when they argue their case-in-chief. Ohio is one of the limited states that permits a motion to request a bill of particulars.
3. Challenge the Sufficiency of the Charging Document
In order for the due process rights of the criminal defendant to be safeguarded, the defendant must be afforded the opportunity to know the charges made against them. If the charging document fails to set forth in sufficient detail the alleged crimes, then the defense attorney may get the case dismissed on the basis that the charging document is defective. So long as the statute of limitations has yet to run for the offense, the prosecutor may just refile the charges, but this additional burden sometimes outright ends the prosecution.
4. Move to Exclude Evidence
If it is warranted by the facts of the case, a defense attorney may be able to file a motion in limine or a motion to suppress evidence. By excluding evidence from trial, it makes the prosecutor’s job of establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt that much more difficult, and if the prosecutor is basing their entire case on the evidence in question, the case would likely end outright if said evidence is excluded.
Criminal defense lawyers understand intricacies in the law, such as the 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the 5th Amendment right to remain silent, and the 6th Amendment right to a lawyer. With such knowledge, a criminal defense lawyer would be much better able than a layman to seek the exclusion of evidence.
5. Challenge the Constitutionality of the Criminal Statute
In some situations, the criminal statute by which the defendant is charged with a crime may be argued to be either facially unconstitutional or unconstitutional as applied. Municipalities often infringe upon First and Second Amendment rights, and so if speech or a weapon is involved in a case, the constitutionality of the law should be analyzed. Also, a statute may be ruled unconstitutional if it is simply too vague.
6. Research Case Law Pertaining to the Criminal Offense
Statutes are not always clear as to how they are to be applied, so it is prudent for a criminal defense lawyer to research how other courts have interpreted the statute. Other lawyers may have devised novel legal arguments when dealing with the same statute, and these arguments may be found in case law.
7. Research the Facts of the Case
A criminal defense lawyer should talk with their client in-depth to figure out their version of the events in question. Also, the lawyer should consider figuring out which witnesses would be available to testify on the defendant’s behalf, whether an alibi exists for the defendant, and whether expert testimony is needed for a complicated matter that is beyond the scope of what a typical juror would be expected to understand without expert guidance.
8. Decide to take a Plea Deal or go to Trial
If the case against the defendant is strongly in the prosecutor’s favor, negotiating a favorable plea deal can be in the client’s best interest. Prosecutors many times reduce the criminal charge to a lesser offense or even permit alternatives to criminal prosecution—such as mediation in neighborly disputes—, if the defendant is willing to work with them.
A favorable plea deal may also safeguard the defendant’s future goals. For example, if a defendant is charged with possessing drug paraphernalia, a conviction of it would prevent that person from being eligible for federal student loan money in the future. Knowing this, criminal defendants sometimes are eager to take a lesser charge that is not considered a drug offense so that they can remain eligible for federal student loan funds.
If a plea deal is insufficiently favorable to the criminal defendant, then they may wish to take their case to trial. A criminal defense attorney should adequately prepare their client and their clients’ witnesses for the trial.
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