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Defense Strategy in Criminal Cases

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How is a Defense Strategy Formed?

You and your criminal defense lawyer work together when you create your defense strategy. This strategy usually emerges when the lawyer finds out what evidence the prosecution has along with your version of the event.

You should always tell your lawyer the whole true story so he/she can help you adequately. A defense strategy is formed when you and your lawyer fit together the version of events that is more likely to produce a satisfactory outcome for you. For example, you are not guilty because you acted in self-defense. It is up to the attorney and you to develop the most legally helpful, accurate version of events that is relevant to the case and is consistent with physical evidence.

Are there Other Reasons to Tell the Truth to my Lawyer?

Yes, the truth might reveal that you are guilty, but only of a less-serious offense. If the defendant lies and insists on complete innocence and the evidence is against him/her, the lawyer can't arrive at a realistic plea bargain, or ask the jury to convict on the lesser offense. A defendant's truthful story might reveal facts that suggest such a result. The defense attorney can also use such facts to argue for minimum punishments if you are convicted. For example, the defendant was duped into committing the crime.

What Kind of Defense Strategies are there?

Every defense will be different based upon the details of the case. However, most defenses will fall into one of three categories:

  • Denial – the defendant will claim that he or she is completely innocent. Such defenses utilize alibis and the fact that a jury must be beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a defendant.
  • Admission – the defendant will admit that some facts cited by the prosecution are true, but that the outcome is different then what the prosecution believes. For example, if fingerprints are present at the scene of a robbery, then an admission defense would say that the defendant was indeed at the scene, but that the defendant was a customer, not a criminal.
  • Confession – the defendant admits to guilt, but there may be mitigating factors which might lessen the sentence. Insanity is an example of such defenses. 
    Remember that the defense attorney cannot lie nor can the defense attorney encourage others to lie. The type of defense strategy will rely on the type of evidence that the prosecution can bring to the case.

What If I Prefer A Different Defense Strategy To The One My Attorney Wants To Use?

The attorney, via fiduciary duty, is suppose to gather the client’s support as much as possible. During the trial the attorney is the one in charge, as ruled by the Federal Supreme Court. Prior to the trial though, the client should raise his or her concerns about the case. If the client is truly unhappy with the way the attorney is directing the case, the client may ask for another attorney if the current attorney is a public defender or hire a new attorney.

Keep in mind, however, that circumstances must be very bad for a court to assign a new public defender to a criminal defendant who cannot afford to hire a new lawyer. Although the attorney is expected to make all the tactical decisions, the client is one whose fate is being decided and as such has the right to voice his or her concerns.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 05-08-2018 03:32 AM PDT

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