How Do You Approach Criminal Cases?
My approach as a criminal defense attorney in Virginia starts with how I have always really taken the time from the first contact that I have with the client to really, really get to know the client and the circumstances of their case. There are so many lawyers who will never talk to you until you put money on the table, who won’t pick up the phone, who are difficult to schedule an appointment with, who only want to do the very minimum they have to do on a case to earn their fee. That’s never been my approach.
Any case can turn on the smallest fact whether it’s a fact about the circumstances of the case or a fact about one of the personalities in the case or even some small detail about the clients themselves. You’ll never know for sure from the beginning what is going to make that difference, what fact might be the one the case will turn on. Without really spending that time in-depth from the very start as a lawyer, you’re handicapping yourself and you’re never going to find out the answers or ask the right questions.
I really like to take a fresh look at the law in every single case. The field of criminal law is one that is constantly changing, courts are always handing down new decisions. The Virginia General Assembly is constantly changing the laws, often as frequently as every six months. They’re writing new laws, they’re getting rid of old laws, and they’re tinkering with existing laws. It’s important to have a look at those every time as well as to look at cases that are interpreting the United States Constitution. That’s also an area of law that changes all the time.
I’ve always been fascinated by the constitution and the protections that it gives us. I pride myself on being current in that area of law and I think it’s really helped me to ensure that my client’s constitutional rights are being protected; that they’re getting a fair process. The kind of process that was contemplated by the people who wrote those founding documents.
How Do You Litigate a Case?
First, I love to litigate a case and I’m never afraid to do it. Believe it or not, that’s not true of all lawyers. It’s not true of all criminal defense lawyers. A lot of lawyers simply don’t enjoy it or aren’t good at it.
A plea bargain is the right thing in many cases. But in literally every moment, from the first words that I speak to a client all the way through the end of the representation, I’m thinking about what I’m hearing in the context of how it’s going to play in court, how evidence is going to come in, who’s going to testify, how, a judge is going to perceive these things, how the prosecutor is going to react.
What I have found through a lot of experience, and this is true in any area of the law, but especially true in criminal practice, is that you have to prepare your case as though you’re going to try the case every time. In fact I assume that I am trying every case. I think that that gives me focus, I think that it causes me to understand the details better, and I believe that it causes me to prepare in a way that not everyone does.
Now, it’s often true that at some point in the case, there will be a plea bargain that’s going to make sense, but even there, the way that you get the best deal is by preparing the case for trial. Your adversary, in this case the prosecutor, must understand that you are prepared, that you know your case backwards and forwards, that you know their case, that you know their weaknesses—that you’re ready to go.