How Much Should You Argue Your Side In A Criminal Case?

Posted on: 5 March 2020

One of the more intriguing problems that has to be addressed in many criminal cases is the question of whether a defendant should try to argue their side of the matter. It's natural for folks to want to loudly proclaim and prove their innocence, but a criminal law attorney doesn't always see it that way. You may want to learn a bit about why that's the case before you retain the services of a lawyer.

Forcing the Prosecution to Prove Their Case

The notion of a defendant being innocent until proven guilty means that a criminal defense attorney doesn't necessarily see proving a client's innocence as part of their job. Legally speaking, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution, and there isn't usually much upside in making the fight about innocence. A criminal law attorney will oftentimes leave a prosecutor to lay out their case and then try to pick things apart.

Making the Police Do Their Job

Generally speaking, a lawyer wants to break down the prosecution's case as soon as possible. This frequently means looking at things that have nothing to do with innocence or guilt, such as how evidence was gathered and what the conduct of the police was like during the investigation or arrest.

The logic here is simple. Cops and prosecutors have to do more than turn up evidence and present it. They have to come by it in a manner that doesn't break the law and violate a defendant's rights.

Suppose a person was charged with drug trafficking because the police found heroin in the trunk of their car after a traffic stop. Lots of questions come up about how the cops found the drugs. Did they have a reasonable suspicion that allowed them to conduct a traffic stop? Were they permitted to search the vehicle, or did they need to get a warrant? Was the warranted justified by the circumstances?

These issues are typically addressed during the arraignment process or pretrial hearings. Fortunately, that means the best chance to fight a charge is usually well before the case gets to trial.

Pushing Multiple Lines of Argument

Defendants are also welcome to pursue multiple strategies. For example, a criminal defense attorney might try to have evidence thrown out and question the legal logic for a case. At the same time, they may assert their client's innocence by presenting a timeline that refutes the prosecution's claims. A criminal defense can stab in several directions while a prosecution case has to stay narrowly focused.

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