If you have been charged with a criminal offense, one of the most important decisions you will have to make regarding your case is whether or not to take your case to trial. If you do decide to allow a judge or jury decide your fate, there will be much that needs to be done to prepare for your trial. Your attorney will need to question or depose witnesses that are scheduled to testify at trial as well as review all of the evidence the State plans to use against you. As the defendant, you may be wondering how criminal attorneys prepare the client for trial. Because every case is unique and no two defendants are the same, preparing a client for trial may involve a slightly different approach from one case to the next; however, there are some common considerations.
Making the Decision to Try the Case
The first thing an attorney should do is explain, in detail, what your options are for resolving the charges against you. Unless the State plans to dismiss the charges against you for some reason, the options for resolving your case include: entering into a plea agreement with the State of Nebraska or taking the case to trial where a judge or jury will decide the issue of guilt. As the defendant, you should have a firm grasp of the pros and cons of each option before making your decision.
If you decide to go to trial, you must also then decide which type of trial you want – judge or jury. A bench trial, also referred to as a trial by judge, is one in which the defendant waives the right to a trial by jury and allows the judge to decide the verdict instead. A jury trial is a trial in which members of the community will render a verdict.
What Criminal Attorneys Do to Prepare Clients for a Trial
Deciding, in the abstract, that you want your case to be decided at trial is one thing. Actually going through the stress of a trial is another thing. Preparing a client for trial should begin by explaining to the client what really happens at a trial and what to expect.
Often, the most difficult aspect of a trial for the defendant is sitting through the State’s presentation of its case. Because the State has the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the State always goes first in a criminal trial. The prosecutor will call witnesses for the State and question those witnesses. Along the way, evidence will be introduced that is to be used against the defendant. For a defendant, it can be frustrating to listen to testimony that is incomplete, misleading, or an outright lie. Human nature often causes a defendant to want to jump up and correct the testimony or confront a witness who is not telling the truth. To prevent this from happening, a criminal attorney must prepare the defendant ahead of time for the likelihood of testimony that is less than accurate. In addition, the attorney will likely stress the fact that the defense gets the opportunity to cross-examine every witness called by the State. The defendant, therefore, may wish to take notes and point out discrepancies; however, under no circumstances should the defendant speak or act out while the State is presenting its case.
Preparing the Defendant to Testify
In a criminal trial the defendant cannot be forced to testify because that would violate his/her right against self-incrimination. Judges understand this concept better than juries. Although the judge in a jury trial will instruct the jury that guilt cannot be inferred from a defendant’s failue to testify, jurors tent to want the hear from the defendant.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070.