When you hire a criminal defense lawyer, you may feel anxious or intimidated. But a criminal defense lawyer’s job is not to judge you for your alleged offense. Criminal defense lawyers serve a necessary role in the criminal justice system. They can often help you avoid some of the worst consequences of a criminal conviction.

With your future at stake, you should take some time to prepare before you meet with a criminal defense attorney. This will ensure you get answers to all of your questions and have time to discuss any issues that could arise in your case.

Here are some steps to take to prepare for a consultation with a criminal defense lawyer.

Write Your Questions Down

Most criminal defense lawyers offer a free consultation. But free does not mean unlimited. Write your questions as you prepare for your consultation so you can use your time efficiently. 

Some questions you should consider asking include:

  • What experience do you have in cases with these kinds of charges?
  • What outcomes can happen in cases like mine?
  • What defenses can I raise?
  • Were my rights violated?
  • Can we get a plea bargain in my case?
  • Can we propose alternatives to prosecution?

Make sure you plan to discuss the lawyer’s experience. Experience can play a large role in the outcome of your case. 

Lawyers who know the prosecutors and judges can help you to set your expectations about your case appropriately. Lawyers who have handled cases similar to your case can help predict how a jury might view your defenses.

Think About Fees

Plan to discuss fees with the lawyer during your consultation. While indigent defendants can request a public defender, many people will not qualify for a free lawyer. As a result, you should think about what you can afford to pay a criminal defense attorney.

Check into your savings and credit while you prepare for your consultation. If paying bail depleted your resources, find out whether you have any friends or relatives that might be willing to loan you money for a defense lawyer.

Bear in mind that a criminal conviction can have a profound effect on your life. You could land in jail and have large fines and restitution orders entered against you. While incarcerated, you might lose your job, home, and family. A criminal conviction can prevent you from getting a job, renting a home, opening a bank account, or taking out a loan or mortgage.

You are the only one who can decide how you defend your criminal charges. But investing in an experienced criminal defense attorney will be worthwhile if you can avoid the direct and indirect consequences of a criminal conviction.

Also discuss whether the lawyer offers any options that can help you to pay your bills. Many lawyers offer payment plans or accept credit cards so you can pay off your legal fees over time.

Understand Your Charges

The chaos surrounding your arrest might leave you confused about your charges. 

For example, if police officers responded to your home for a domestic violence call, your charges could include:

  • Assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Menacing
  • Terroristic threatening
  • Wanton endangerment
  • Criminal abuse
  • Stalking
  • Violation of a protective order

Before your consultation, you should review any paperwork that you received from the police or court. This will help you understand your charges.

You should also take this paperwork to your consultation. Every criminal offense requires the prosecution to prove certain elements for a conviction. Your lawyer can help you understand the elements of an offense. During your consultation, you can discuss whether the facts of your case meet those criteria.

Gather Information for Your Defenses

You should gather information about anything that you believe will be relevant to your defenses against your charges. 

Evidence of affirmative defenses could include physical evidence or witness testimony. If anyone can provide testimony that helps you mount a defense, you should provide that witness’s name and contact information to the lawyer during your consultation.

A defense will usually take two forms, which we’ll explore in-depth below.

Negating the Elements of the Offense

If the prosecutor in your case cannot prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury cannot convict you. This means that disproving one or more of the elements of your charge could help you to secure an acquittal.

Some evidence that can negate an element of a criminal offense includes:

  • An alibi
  • A false accusation
  • Mistaken identity
  • Diminished capacity (in certain offenses)

If you can disprove an element of an offense, prosecutors might still charge you with a lesser offense. 

For example, suppose that prosecutors charge you with selling drugs to a minor. If you prove that the other person was over the age of 18, prosecutors could still charge you with drug crimes like trafficking and possession.

Affirmative Defenses

Affirmative defenses excuse conduct that would otherwise constitute criminal conduct. Some examples of affirmative defenses include:

Self Defense

Everyone has the legal right to use reasonable force to defend themselves and others. When you use reasonable force to protect yourself or someone else, you can usually overcome criminal charges by claiming self-defense.

Necessity

Necessity can provide a defense in some circumstances. For example, during a hurricane, you might use necessity as a defense to charges that you broke into an abandoned home.

Truthfulness During Your Consultation with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

One of the most important ways you can prepare for your consultation is by telling the truth. A lawyer must keep all attorney-client communications confidential. This means that no one will hear about your conversation except the lawyer.

Telling the truth will help the lawyer to prepare for your representation adequately. It will help the lawyer to provide clear advice about your options and your potential criminal exposure. It will also help them avoid surprises from the prosecutors.

Armed with the truth and the information you can prepare beforehand, your lawyer can work hard to get a fair outcome in your criminal case.