What Are Some of The First Things You Look For in a Case And Why?
The following is taken from an interview with Virginia criminal defense attorney Matthew Crowley. To learn more schedule a free consultation with a lawyer today.
The very first thing I’m always looking for in a case is the reason that the client has encountered law enforcement in the first place. A lot of people are not aware that the police can’t simply stop you or detain you, even if it’s temporary, for no reason. Whether you’re in a car or whether you’re on the street, when a police officer approaches you and asks you for identification or makes a show of force and tells you can’t leave, you’ve been stopped at that point.
The constitution says that there must be reasonable suspicion, or probable cause to believe, that criminal activity has occurred or is occurred in order for a person to be detained or “stopped.” That’s the essence of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
But police are certainly not perfect and sometimes they don’t stop people for good reasons or even stop them for bad reasons or pretextual reasons. Fortunately, the law says that if they don’t have a good, legal reason to stop you, in most cases they won’t be able to use the evidence that they collect from that point forward at trial.
So I want to know from the very start whether my client has been treated fairly in that regard. If they haven’t, it can really positively affect their case and sometimes it can cause it to be dismissed.
I also really like to jog the client’s memory. I like to get them thinking about everything that happened, about all the people who were there, what they said, what the police said, what other witnesses said. Their memory will never be better than it is at the point I first talk to them.
Talking in depth about what the client’s goals are is very important. Of course, everyone’s goal is to have the case have the least impact, it can on them, but every person is different, every circumstance is different. There are all kinds of things that are built into different charges that may affect people in unique ways whether it is preventing them from carrying a gun or whether it might take away a commercial driver’s license or whether it might affect their security clearance.
Knowing how a charge might impact the client in their unique circumstances is critical to forming a plan and selecting tactics. Those are things that you need to know right away, those are things you have to have in mind from the beginning.