If you have been arrested for a crime, your defense attorney will need to know many different things about your case in order to build a solid defense strategy for you. In addition to all of the information you will be able to verbally provide at your initial consultation, your attorney will be interested in seeing documents relating to your alleged crime. Some of these documents may be in your possession. Other documents might be kept by other people, the court, or the government, but will be relevant to your case.
Below is a checklist of the various documents you should collect when you prepare to meet with a criminal defense lawyer for the first time. This checklist applies regardless of whether you are working with a private attorney, legal aid lawyer or a public defender, as any type of lawyer will require as much information as you can provide in order to give you the legal advice you require.
After getting arrested, documents will be created recording that arrest. One of these will be a written report of your arrest that the police have filled out. Your attorney will want a copy of that arrest document so he or she can review the date, time, and place of your arrest. In addition, the report will provide information about the suspected crime, alleged victim, and other information that it is important to have when seeking legal representation as a criminal defendant.
Chances are, the police have created a file on you during their investigation of whether you committed a crime. The file may contain photographs, maps, notes from interviews with the police officer, evidence logs, the initial police report, and other information uncovered in the investigation. In the United States criminal justice system, your attorney is entitled to see a complete copy of the police file so that he or she can fully defend you. In other words, your attorney needs any evidence that the police have that tends to incriminate you or exonerate you.
If you’ve ever been arrested before, your attorney will want to know about the details of your criminal record. He or she can obtain that information from you, and can also obtain a written copy of that information by requesting a copy of your criminal record from the relevant jurisdictions. Your record will show any crimes you have been arrested for or gone through the arraignment process for, whether there was a verdict or plea related to those criminal charges, and whether you have served any jail or prison time for those crimes. This record may also involve information past probation or parole, and you may need to get records from your probation officer if you have one.
If you’re charged with a criminal offense that deals in any way with your car or another motor vehicle – such as being arrested for drunk driving and needing to create a DUI defense case – your attorney may want to obtain a copy of your motor vehicle records from the government. These records can also help with issues of alibi and identity; for example, if the police were looking for a person fitting your description who drives a blue car, but your car is green, your motor vehicle records can help your attorney prove that you are not the person the police were looking for.
Your medical records may be relevant in some criminal law cases. For example, your arrest record states that the police chased you for ten blocks before they could capture you. Your medical records show that you have severe asthma which prevents you from jogging for more than one block at a time. Your attorney may want those records to be admitted into evidence to show that the police are being untruthful about your arrest. In addition, your attorney may also need evidence, from your medical records, of any prescription drugs that you were taking at the time of the alleged crime in order to determine whether any of those drugs may have impaired your abilities to think or act appropriately.
If you have a history of mental health treatment, your attorney will need a copy of those records. Your mental health may have an impact on the defense of your case. For example, your mental state may enable you to plead insanity as a defense. Your criminal attorney can use your mental health records as evidence of insanity if appropriate.
This is a broad category covering all types of documented evidence. For example, a paper trail may be important if you have been accused of a “white-collar” crime such as tax evasion. The written record of your tax filings will be essential in determining whether you have in fact committed a crime. As another example, if you’ve been accused of committing a crime in Detroit, Michigan, on a night you claim that you were on a business trip in San Francisco, California, your attorney will want to see any paper trail created on that trip, such as airline tickets, long-distance telephone bills, and hotel and restaurant receipts, in order to prove that you could not have committed the crime.
If you believe there were witnesses, particularly those that were not contacted by the police during their investigation, you should provide your attorney with a list of their names and addresses if that information is known to you. If you do not know their names, at least provide your attorney with any information you know about the persons, such as physical descriptions and locations at the time of the crime. You never know what witness may be the one to provide you with a solid defense.
If you claim to have an alibi for your whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime, you should provide your attorney with the name and contact information of anyone who can confirm that alibi. This may be crucial evidence in supporting, or rejecting, the defense in your criminal case.
If you’ve been arrested and are facing a criminal charge, it’s important to make sure that you see an experienced criminal defense attorney as early as possible in your case. Getting documents for your attorney will allow them to get a jump start on your case could lead to great results down the road, such as the granting of a motion to suppress evidence. Get in touch with a criminal defense attorney or criminal defense law firm in your area today to learn about how they can help with your case. They can also help you understand how attorney fees and other legal costs are handled and provide an estimate of how much their services will cost overall.
An arrest and conviction can change everything. Fines or time in jail are the immediate concern, but a conviction will also mean a criminal record that can make it harder to find a job and housing for years to come. If you are arrested or learn you are under investigation, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and help you determine the best way to proceed with mounting a defense.