How to Choose the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Case

How to Choose the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Case

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it’s in your best interest to seek legal counsel immediately. Even seemingly minor crimes can still result in a criminal record and harsh sentences, and having a record can haunt you for years, limiting your life, from where you work to where you live.

The reality is, when it comes to criminal defense, not all lawyers are created equal. The outcome of your case is largely dependent on having the right lawyer fighting for you. A Google search turns up thousands of results. All claiming to be the right attorney for you. So, how do you know who to choose?

Although the nature and severity of the alleged crime will factor heavily into how your case is handled, any person who is charged with a crime should ensure that their lawyer meets all of the following criteria.

1. Experience with the Charges You are Facing

Hiring an attorney who specializes in white collar crimes may not be the best choice to fight your sexual assault charge. Criminal law is complex and ever evolving, so it’s essential to work with a lawyer who has extensive experience in the specific crime with which you’ve been charged.

Do your homework and hire a lawyer who has a deep understanding of exactly what you’re going through.

2. Comfortability

Most law firms offer a free initial consultation. I recommend taking advantage of it. This will give you the opportunity to ask questions and see how you interact together. Personal chemistry is an underrated, yet very important factor when choosing legal representation. If you don’t feel comfortable with your lawyer, the legal process is going to be unnecessarily long and painful, and the outcome is less likely to be favorable.

The best lawyer-client relationships are collaborative. When you trust your lawyer, the relationship becomes more of a partnership, and the chances of a successful outcome increase dramatically.

Use these questions as a guide to determine if the lawyer you’re interviewing is right for you.

  • Am I comfortable talking openly to them?
  • Does my lawyer explain things in a way that I can understand?
  • Does my lawyer seem genuinely concerned about me and the outcome of my case?
  • Does my lawyer seem trustworthy?
  • Does my lawyer appear confident?

3. Word of Mouth and Online Reviews

One of the best ways to find a good defense lawyer is word of mouth. If you know someone who has been in a similar situation, ask who they used for legal counsel and if they were happy with their results. However, just because a lawyer was a good fit for someone else, doesn’t make them a good fit for you. So, don’t just take a name and run with it. Make sure you have the consultation, then do some online digging. With the wealth of information available on the internet, there is no excuse to not do your homework.

Choosing the right defense lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Check the state bar association website to see if the lawyer has a record of formal discipline, and search for reviews on Facebook and Google.

IMPORTANT TIP: Although reviews can assist in guiding you, they should not be taken as the deciding factor in your end decision.

One bad review shouldn’t necessarily keep you from working with a particular lawyer, but several bad reviews should be a clear red flag. The same goes for good reviews. Just because a lawyer has 2,000 good reviews and another has 200, doesn’t mean one lawyer is better than the other. A criminal case is a personal and private matter that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable sharing with the world. So, don’t let a lack of reviews stop you from scheduling a consultation either.

4. Courtroom Confidence

If your case moves to trial, you want to know that your lawyer has confidence in the courtroom. In addition to specifically asking about courtroom experience, a lawyer’s appearance and demeanor can give big clues as to how they will perform in a courtroom. If they are neatly dressed, well spoken, and confident, these characteristics will bode well in a courtroom setting.

On the other hand, if a lawyer appears nervous or disheveled, their arguments may be less convincing to a judge and jury. As with most things, exceptions exist, but confidence is generally the hallmark of any successful trial lawyer.

It is also important that your lawyer can take direction from you. Although they will control certain aspects of your case, like filing motions and calling witnesses, the big decisions, like whether to plead guilty or go to trial, or whether to try to make a deal, are YOUR call. Look for an attorney who takes the time to get to know you and your goals, and who actively integrates your input into the legal strategy.

5. Listen to Your Gut

At the end of the day, trust your instincts. If something feels off, don’t be afraid to walk away. Remember, you are interviewing the defense lawyer, not the other way around. Ultimately, this is your battle to fight, and you need the right lawyer by your side if you’re going to win.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges and in need of an experienced criminal lawyer, please contact Nathan Akamine.

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Should juveniles be allowed to waive miranda rights?

Should juveniles be allowed to waive miranda rights?

“You have the right to remain silent…..” chances are you know the rest. You don’t have to be involved in a crime to have heard it, thanks to crime TV shows. These are Miranda Rights and although many people can recite them, not everyone understands what they mean.

Miranda rights offer protection.

A law enforcement officer is legally obligated to read the Miranda rights to each suspect (defendant) at the time of his/her arrest and essentially, they state;

  1. You are not required to speak to the police or any law enforcement officer.
  2. You are permitted to have an attorney present to advocate on your behalf throughout police questioning.

A defendant can choose to uphold these rights or waive them. If the defendant chooses to waive their Miranda rights and speak directly to law enforcement officers without the presence of an attorney, such correspondence is not coerced or involuntary. 

Juveniles Miranda rights.

Law enforcement officers must also read Miranda Rights to juveniles. However, juveniles may not fully understand the Miranda rights and the implications of waiving them. Because of this, the rate of juveniles choosing to waive their rights is alarmingly as high as 90%.

Why?

According to a Harvard Law publication; Interrogation coerces by design.3 We regulate interrogation because it can go too far, harming suspects and producing unreliable confessions.4

Common sense backed by brain science leaves no doubt that juveniles are often more vulnerable to the pressures of police questioning.5 Protective procedures designed for adults offer limited help.

Younger juveniles misunderstand Miranda warnings at alarming rates,6 and developmental psychologists question whether minors are ever competent to make “knowing, intelligent, and voluntary” waivers of their rights.7

For child victims and witnesses, police, and judges have developed extensive protocols to ensure that statements are reliable, but there are no similar safeguards for juvenile suspects.8

Instead, to take advantage of psychological reality, interrogation training instructs officers to treat children no differently than they do adults, except when employing strategies for manipulating children’s special sensitivities.9 These methods work. As a matter of course, questioned minors waive their rights and make incriminating statements.10 “[Y]oung people are especially prone to confessing falsely.”11 Juveniles account for as much as a third of documented false confessions. 12

Minors waving their Miranda Rights

On one hand, some cases dispute whether a juvenile actually waived his or her rights at all. On the other hand, are cases that dispute whether the rights were said in a way to make the minor understand what rights were actually protected.

Some states are currently considering revising the Miranda standard. Processes that would address some of these concerns include:

  1. Implementing a version of Miranda specifically for juveniles that are much easier to understand.
  2. Making it so that juveniles below a minimum age limit would be legally unable to waive their Miranda rights, make a confession, or even speak to a police officer in the absence of a parent or guardian.

If your child or the minor of a loved one has been arrested, please seek legal help. Call Akamine Law today. Your call is free.

6 See Thomas Grisso, Juveniles’ Capacities to Waive Miranda Rights: An Empirical Analysis, 68 CALIF. L. REV. 1134, 1166 (1980)

7 Barry C. Feld, Police Interrogation of Juveniles: An Empirical Study of Policy and Practice, 97 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 219, 228 (2006)

8 See Tamar R. Birckhead, The Age of the Child: Interrogating Juveniles After Roper v. Simmons, 65 WASH. & LEE L. REV. 385, 420–27 (2008)

9 See FRED E. INBAU ET AL., CRIMINAL INTERROGATION AND CONFESSIONS 298–303 (4th ed. 2004)

10 See BARRY C. FELD, KIDS, COPS, AND CONFESSIONS 170 (2013)

11 Christine S. Scott-Hayward, Explaining Juvenile False Confessions: Adolescent Development and Police Interrogation, 31 LAW & PSYCHOL. REV. 53, 61 (2007)

12 Steven A. Drizin & Richard A. Leo, The Problem of False Confessions in the Post-DNA World, 82 N.C. L. REV. 891, 944 (2004)

Can a social media post result in criminal charges?

Can a social media post result in criminal charges?

If you’ve spent any time on social media, it’s likely that you read abusive and oftentimes offensive statements posted or left as comments. Most people are under the assumption the things said online are without repercussions. However, that may not be the case.

Perhaps you remember hearing about Justin Olsen, an 18-year-old Ohio man who was arrested last year on federal charges after investigators claimed that he made multiple entries online posting his support of mass shootings, and cited a target of Planned Parenthood.

Regardless of Olsen telling the FBI that his posts were “only a joke”, he was booked on state charges of telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing, and the federal charge of threatening a federal law enforcement officer.

Although Olsen’s charges are considered to be severe for online behavior, a malicious or threatening post may qualify as defamation. Defamation is the publication of a statement about someone that hurts their reputation in the eyes of members of society.

Online actions can have severe consequences.

You may remember a case where social media played a major part in a case against two football players who were eventually found guilty of raping an intoxicated 16-year-old girl.

The victim says she doesn’t remember much of what happened the night when Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, assaulted her at a friend’s party, and that she only became aware of it after a video surfaced on social media. A key piece of evidence was an Instagram photo of the boys carrying the girl out of the house by her arms and legs.

That being said, photos and videos, whether posted publicly or obtained by police, have to meet certain criteria:

  • They must be authenticated, meaning the prosecutors have to prove the images are what they seem and have not been altered or staged;
  • they can not be shown out of context

Additional charges were later brought against two teenage girls in the same case after police were shown twitter posts threatening the physical harm to the victim if she didn’t drop the charges.

Can I be arrested for posting a video?

Richard Godbehere uploaded a 5-minute video of himself driving, cracking open a beer, then proceeding to take a drink. He then stated “We all know drinking and driving is against the law. You’re not supposed to do that. But they didn’t say anything about driving and then drinking.”

A joke, maybe. Against the law, definitely. He was surprised when the police showed up at his house prepared to arrest him on charges of consuming alcohol while operating a vehicle.

He stated the video was meant as a parody and claimed there wasn’t actually beer in the bottle, to which Police Chief Darryl Perry stated: “Our traffic laws are in place for a reason, and Mr. Godbehere’s blatant disregard for those laws is the type of behavior that won’t be tolerated.”

The moral of the story, be careful what you say online. It can, and will be used against you in a court of law.

If you or someone you love is in need of an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer, call Nathan Akamine.