Written by attorney Kathryn Jones Boortz

5 Helpful Tips for Coping with a Loved One Who Is Going Through the Criminal Justice System

I have been a criminal defense attorney for 8 years. I have interacted first hand with my client’s loved ones, the sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, spouses, and dear friends of those who have been deemed a “criminal defendant."

Watching a loved one go through the criminal justice process is scary and frustrating. You may feel misinformed and helpless. How can you cope? This short report is designed to give you some tips, advice, and encouragement.

1) Take a deep breath, and prepare for a long ride. Typically, the process of going through the criminal justice system is slow and you will need to be patient.

2) In dealing with your loved one’s attorney, designate one person to be the liaison. This person will interact with the attorney, as opposed to the attorney having to talk individually to each person. This way, the attorney can better utilize their time working on your loved one’s case. At critical junctions in the case, the liaison can set up a free conference call line and organize a conference call. Be sure to e-mail the attorney any questions in advance of the call if possible.

3) Be in charge of helping your loved one assemble character letters. These letters can come from friends, co-workers, and neighbors and attest to the character of your loved one. While they are helpful to the attorney in many ways, they also serve another purpose. These letters are encouragement to your loved one!

4) Don’t spend too much time doing research on the Internet. While there are some good sources on the Internet, there is a lot of garbage, misinformation, and some scary stuff.

5) Follow your loved one’s lead. They may want to “vent" or discuss some aspects of the situation with you as a means of coping, or they may prefer not to go into any detail at all. Respect their decision.


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