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Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail – How to Successfully Manage Criminal Charges

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People in a RushWritten by Sam Cooper, Lawyer, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers

Being charged with criminal offending is extremely stressful. A natural reaction to being charged is to become overwhelmed and refuse to confront the reality of a pending court date. I see people accused of criminal offending do this regularly. They will attend the office for a first consultation only days before their hearing and it is a scramble to get everything ready in time. This is not the correct way to managing criminal charges. To give yourself the best chance of getting the best outcome in your case when accused of criminal offending, you should do the following:

Inform Yourself

Unless you work in the criminal justice system, it is unlikely that you are familiar with court processes and how deal with allegations of criminal offending. You should begin by learning about this. Most criminal law firms have information packs available on their websites detailing court processes, pleading guilty, pleading not guilty and other important information about defending or managing criminal charges.

Victoria Legal Aid and the Courts also have easy to understand information pages on their websites to assist people who are facing criminal charges navigate the criminal justice system.

Engage an Expert

It is extremely important to contact a lawyer early on. To properly prepare a criminal matter for court you need expert advice and expert representation.

You should consult with specialist criminal defence lawyers and obtain some initial advice. Engaging a lawyer is a huge leap of faith. You are trusting a professional to look after your interests in circumstances where your liberty might be at stake. Find a lawyer you feel comfortable with. Check published sentencing decisions and appeals to see what kind of matters a criminal law firm has acted in. Make sure you are engaging someone who will manage your matter competently and give you the best chance at getting the best outcome for your charges.

Once you have decided on a lawyer, engage them immediately so they can start working on the best outcome for your charges.

Help Your Lawyer

You should not stop thinking about your criminal matter after you have engaged a lawyer. You should work with your lawyer throughout the time you have engaged them. Provide your lawyer with all the information they ask you for. Send your lawyer any documentation they ask for.

Prepare detailed personal history instructions for your lawyer so they know everything they need to know about you. Your lawyer might suggest that you start engaging with a psychologist or obtain some other kind treatment, like a road trauma awareness course or a behavioural change program. Your lawyer might also ask you to gather character references in preparation for your hearing date. Your lawyer might ask you to think about who could appear as a witness on your behalf at the hearing. You should take all the proactive steps your lawyer asks you to take so that the matter is properly prepared once you get to court.

Communicate With Your Lawyer

Ensure that you provide your lawyer with clear instructions to get the best outcome for your charges. If you change your mind about how you want your case to proceed, discuss this with your lawyer immediately. If you need more advice so that you can give informed instructions, let your lawyer know this so they can give you the information you need.

An important element of successfully managing a criminal matter is communication between lawyer and client. This does not mean incessantly bombarding your lawyer with information and asking questions to which they have already provided an answer. It means maintaining a steady and professional dialogue about the matter and completing any tasks the lawyer asks you to complete in a timely fashion.

Reflect on Your Decisions

Think about how your matter is progressing. Ask yourself if there is anything else you wish to discuss with your lawyer, or anything else you can do to assist managing your criminal charges. If you are unhappy with how your matter is being managed, let your lawyer know and address the issue. Think about your instructions and whether you are happy with how you have asked your lawyer to proceed.

All of the above points can be distilled into one word – preparation. If you properly prepare your case, you put yourself in the best position to get the best outcome possible. If you ignore your criminal matter, you are jeopardising your chances of success.

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