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Tips on Preparing for a Criminal Case

— April 30, 2019

If you’re the defendant in a criminal case, preparation and a good lawyer are vital. The old adage “He who represents himself has a fool for a client” was not written without good reason.

Appearing before the court for the trial of a criminal case requires a lot of preparation. There are a lot of things to bear in mind, such as meeting deadlines, observing proper decorum, being attentive, and learning all the elements involving your case. If you’re based in Houston, for instance, you should have a thorough conversation with a Houston criminal lawyer in order to know more about the specific points you need to prepare for when appearing in court.

In this post, you’ll learn some practical tips to prepare yourself for a court trial. 

Know and Meet Deadlines 

Expect to face a lot of deadlines once the trial begins. Make sure to take note of all deadlines, such as discovery deadlines, filing deadlines, statutes of limitations, and trial deadlines, among others. If you choose to represent yourself, you might miss an important deadline which could negatively impact your case. It’s best to hire a lawyer who will be responsible for meeting court deadlines. Law firms usually utilize software programs or applications, such as calendaring software, to ensure that all deadlines are recorded and met. 

Here are the most common consequences of missing deadlines:

  • Penalty or fines: These are determined by the state in which you live. If you live in Texas, you can contact a Greco Neyland TX lawyer as they will know how the court trial works in this area.
  • Delay in your case: The court won’t give you any leeway or accept excuses for missing a mandated deadline.

Note: You can sue your lawyer for legal malpractice if a deadline is missed because it’s a lawyer’s primary responsibility to meet deadlines on your behalf. By doing so, you can get compensated for the damages and legal fees.

Watch a Trial 

In the United States, almost all court proceedings are open to the public. A trial can be a bench trial or a jury trial. A bench trial has no jury involved, and the judge decides based on the facts and how the law is applied. You can also view hearings on motions and observe different court proceedings, most especially those relating to your case.

Brown gavel on grey wooden surface; image by Wesley Tingey, via
Brown gavel on grey wooden surface; image by Wesley Tingey, via

Here are the benefits of watching a trial:

  • You can set your expectations on how a real trial works.
  • You’ll feel more relaxed and confident when the time comes and you’re be under oath to tell your side of the story. 
  • You won’t be overwhelmed when it’s your time to appear before the court, so you can focus on what you need to answer. 

Learn All the Elements of Your Case 

Under the U.S. criminal law, the elements of a crime are a set of proven facts needed to convict a person. The prosecution should present solid pieces of evidence to prove that the defendant is guilty of a criminal offense, which is composed of at least four elements. 

Here are the criminal elements:

  • Criminal intent or ‘mens rea’: These are the mental elements of a crime, which determine if the criminal act was purposeful or voluntary. It reflects the state of mind of the defendant: willfulness, negligence, recklessness, or the ‘guilty’ mind. The intention should be guilty for the act to be considered guilty.
  • Criminal act or ‘actus reus’: It is the criminal act itself, an unlawful omission of an act, or words that harm other people, such as perjury, threat, solicitation, and conspiracy.
  • Concurrence: The criminal intent and criminal act may occur at the same time. There’s a criminal liability with voluntary or overt action.
  • Causation: There should be actual harm that occurred, and this fact should be proven. For instance, a homicide case should prove that someone died from the incident. Failure to present substantial evidence to prove the causation may jeopardize the case. 

Practice With Your Lawyer

Practicing a trial with your lawyer can be highly beneficial for you. It’s crucial for you and your lawyer to collaborate and become partners towards achieving a successful or winning case. Use this opportunity to express your thoughts, emotions, concerns, and ask the right questions before it’s too late.

Here are some of the questions you might want to ask your criminal case lawyer:

  • What is the proper behavior inside the courtroom? How do I better handle anger and frustration in the court?
  • How do I best defend myself or react when the pieces of evidence are presented?
  • Do we have verbal cues of what course of action to take if our plan won’t materialize?

Managing a criminal case can be a daunting experience for both parties. However, you need to exert all your effort to ensure that you’ll win the case. You’ll have a higher chance of winning if you’re fully prepared by meeting deadlines, attending actual court hearings, practicing with your lawyer, and knowing all the elements of your case. 

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