In the back story of the movie The Lincoln Lawyer the cocky attorney Mickey Haller pressures a character named Jesus Martinez to take a plea deal for murdering a prostitute. Haller believed the defendant was guilty, but as Martinez serves time in a rough prison, Haller discovers he was innocent.
You may find yourself identifying with Martinez, if you are charged with a serious crime and there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that makes you look guilty. However, unlike the fictional storyline, you do have options.
Using Pro Se Defense
If you have plenty of money, you could hire the lawyer with the best track record in town, and relax a little bit. If you don't have much money or many resources, you are probably going to need to use your wits and educate yourself, but this does not mean you should go it alone. You do have the legal option of defending yourself (this is called pro se in federal court and possibly pro per in state court) but this may work against you for these reasons:
- The whole legal system is set up to work with lawyers. You may face prejudice and an uphill battle to gain respect by going it alone.
- It takes time to learn legal protocol and jargon. Watching numerous episodes of Law and Order isn't enough.
- It takes experience in the courtroom to learn successful strategies.
Defending yourself pro se from a felony is like athlete training for the Olympics without a coach. It is possible to be successful, but the odds are not in your favor.
Getting Adequate Legal Representation
Even with limited resources, you will find it a wise investment to hire a criminal law attorney, even if you have to get a loan. When you meet with him/her you can explain your financial situation and work out ways to save expenses. Your attorney will represent you in court, and he/she can also privately explain what strategies may be more effective than others. He/she will give you ideas for research and evidence collection to save precious time and effort.
If you can't afford an attorney, you will be appointed a public defender who either works for the government fulltime or part-time. Sometimes these persons are so busy, they may want you to take a plea deal. You may have to convince them that you are willing to take your chances with a jury trial and that you will work with them to provide a good defense.
A third option is to find a lawyer in your area that is willing to take on the case pro bono (without payment). This is not as impossible as it seems, because an attorney may find your cause interesting or compelling enough to want to help you.
Even if you can't afford the bail or bond to get out of jail, you will still have access to a law library. You will need to research your case from there. If you are free, you will want to visit the law library in your locality, to read up on cases similar to yours. You may also want to gain some insight on the laws involved and whether your actions constituted a crime or not.
Since your main goal is to create "reasonable doubt," some of your goals should be to:
- Find adequate ways to dispute the evidence against you.
- Become more sympathetic and credible to the judge and jury. This may involve some adjustments in your appearance and obtaining some conventional clothing to wear to court.
- Strengthen your alibi, if need be. An alibi is a defense to create doubt that it was possible for you to have committed the crime.
- Question whether you broke an actual law if you did do the deed, but circumstances were such that any reasonable person would have done the same thing.
Getting it together
You will need to consult with an experienced attorney like Robert A Murray, do your research, clean up your act if required, and walk into court confident and determined.