For some people, it is a big step to call an attorney or meet an attorney in person to discuss a pending criminal case. It involves explaining what happened and perhaps feeling foolish or ashamed. It can involve describing one’s prior criminal history, if any.
We understand how this can be uncomfortable and even embarrassing. It is not something one enjoys discussing with a stranger. However, rest assured that even a free consultation is confidential and protected by the attorney-client privilege barring us from sharing this information with others, even if you do not retain us.
Nonetheless, describing what took place is necessary for an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand the issues, the defenses to the charges, the personality of the judge and prosecutor involved, the motions that could be filed to dismiss the case or reduce the exposure, the possible punishment and resolution strategies. This is the type of information that we hope to provide in every free consultation if the client gives us enough information.
In many free consultations, however, the client or a friend of the client has only limited information about what took place. Nonetheless, we will try to provide the information listed above as best we can.
The defenses to a charge are often the most important issue in a case. In a DUI, for example, the potential client may not have been driving at all when the police officer first made contact. In a domestic violence case, self-defense is a common defense and we will try to explain if the amount of force used by our client was reasonable under the circumstances and given the “victim’s” history. In shoplifting matters, lack of specific intent to steal is often a defense, or at least an issue, especially if the client is distracted by a young child or a cell phone when stopped walking out of the store.
Many clients feel reassured to hear we know a bit about the personality of the judge or the handling prosecutor. However, we caution that the facts or the case and the applicable law are usually far more important in how the case resolves. Nonetheless, we do like to tell the client a bit about the judge, if we have sufficient experience in front of him or her, as well as the prosecutor, if we are familiar with his or her patience, fairness and background.
We also like to tell the client if there are specific motions that might help dismiss the case or that can reduce the punishment a client faces. A motion to suppress evidence under Penal Code § 1538.5 is probably the most common motion we file, so in every initial consultation we are keen to know how police investigated the case and gathered information. We at Greg Hill & Associates like to file motions (i.e., Serna motions, Romero motions, motions for civil compromise, 17(b) motions, etc.) more than other criminal defense attorneys because, quite frankly, we pride ourselves on writing and we believe showing good effort helps resolve the case on fairer terms for the client. In other words, we do not win every motion, but even when we lose, we often help bring the case closer to resolution.
Often the first question asked in a free consultation is what punishment the client faces. For example, the client may ask, “how much time will I serve?” or “will I go to prison?” or “am I eligible for a program instead of jail?” The answer to these questions is usually best reserved for later, once the client describes the facts and his or her prior criminal history. It can be frustrating for the client to hear our initial answer of “it matters” when answering this, but no two cases are ever the same.
The last thing we try to discuss in every initial consultation is resolution strategy. This usually means a recommendation for the potential client to enroll in certain classes, counseling (i.e. anger management, a batterer’s program or a DUI program early) or attending certain meetings (i.e. Alcoholic Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Kleptomaniacs Anonymous, sexual compulsiveness meetings, i.e.). It can also mean hiring a private investigator to research the facts or a witness’ background. It can also mean retaining an expert witness or having a laboratory retest evidence. Often, we encourage the client to provide us a mitigation packet of documents that demonstrate the client is a “Good Guy” or “Good Gal,” who is achievement oriented and responsible to suggest leniency in punishment is appropriate.
Just as no two cases are identical, no initial consultation is the same as another. However, if possible, we try to cover each of the areas described above in each case.
For more information about retaining an attorney, please click on the following articles:
- Why Hire Greg Hill & Associates? Why Not Hire Someone Else?
- Why Hire a Private Attorney? Why Shouldn’t One Use the Public Defender?
- What Should I Ask Before Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney?