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    What You Must Know as a Defendant
Charged with a Crime

by Ira Still, Esquire
South Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

Coping with Your Lawyer, Family and Friends

Article Summary:

After being arrested, dealing with police and sitting in jail, you probably thought the rest of the process would be less stressful.  Then you learned that finding the right lawyer and coping with him during the pretrial process is more difficult than you imagined.  Possibly your friends and family are treating you differently now.  The author is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer who has written this article from his vast experience to guide you while you are coping with your lawyer, family and friends.



  • Coping with your Lawyer

The single most important question you can ask yourself after being interviewed by a lawyer is, "Can I talk to him like a brother?"  "When it comes to me opening up my life to someone, would it be him?"  Of course, you need to find out how many cases he has handled and what his background is.  If he does divorces and injury cases along with an occasional criminal case, you should keep looking.  You need a lawyer who has been dedicated to representing criminal defendants in tough cases over a long period of time.  What is he saying to you about your case and your defense?

Do a Google search and read the websites of 10 to 20 attorneys in your area.  Don't be fooled by their sales pitch.  Narrow your selection down based on his credentials and the cases he has won.  If he is a speaker or author in the field of criminal defense or if he is active in the Criminal Defense Lawyers Bar Association you can feel more confident.  Does he claim that if you pay $20,000 you will definitely get off?  Beware!  The Bar doesn't permit lawyers to give any guaranties.  If he guaranties anything, move on to an ethical lawyer.  Know this: a lawyer who is careful to say and do things that are legal and moral and ethical and professional has the best chance of winning your case for you.

Selecting a lawyer is an important task for you early on in your case.  As soon as you can after your arrest, talk to your family about hiring a good lawyer who concentrates his practice on defending people who have been charged with crimes.  That lawyer must have solid experience in trial and in being a good negotiator.  Once you select your lawyer, you will be asked to read and sign a retainer agreement.  Don't proceed without a written agreement.  Read it thoroughly before you sign it.  Ask questions so you understand all of the terms.  Keep a copy for yourself and open a file to keep all of your important case documents.

Your lawyer will work immediately on a bond hearing if you need one.  To be successful, he must be a good negotiator and know the law.  Your lawyer will also start investigating the facts with a private investigator.  He will get all available documents and evidence and determine who the witnesses are.  He will obtain statements or take depositions of witnesses.  While he is working for you, he is also working for many other clients.  Give him time and give him space.  Remember to tell him everything you know about your case and the people, places and things involved. 

Take the time to start a journal or notebook on your case.  Write down everything you can remember about the day of the incident and the arrest.   Fill the pages with names, facts, thoughts and ideas about your case.  When you complete it give it to your lawyer.  This will be very helpful to the lawyer and investigator.  It will be a huge benefit for deposition preparation and for your trial.

  • Coping with Your Family

Your family may be angry with you having been arrested and charged with a crime.  They may treat you differently.  Perhaps they didn't know how you were living, who your friends were or where you were going on your time out of the house.  Keep in mind that your family wants you to succeed.  Other people out there couldn't care less about you.  But your family loves you and wants you to do well.  No one is closer to you than your family.  Your current circumstances have caused a strain in this relationship.   But with their love and your desire to make things better, your whole family will be drawn closer together.  You need a good team in your corner to get through this tough time of your life.

It is ultimately your constitutional rights that are at stake here.  Whether or not you go to trial is your decision to make.  Whether or not you testify at trial is your decision to make.  All of your rights under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States are yours alone to decide upon.    However, your family is very important to your success at all of the trial stages.  They will keep you connected and supported.  Don't get so angry at yourself that you refuse to talk about these things with your family. 

Select one family member who is the most level-headed.  Let him or her be the spokesperson with your lawyer if you are finding it difficult to communicate regarding your retainer agreement, attorney fees and expenses.  If you need their help, use them effectively.  Just remember this:  never talk to them about the evidence, the charges or the investigation.  You don't need them to know things that might make them a witness for the State.  This is your case and you need to make the key decisions, but working together in this way can bring strength to the defense.

  • Coping with Your Friends

Friends come and friends go.  Most of these, however, are really just acquaintances.  These people will simply fall into the background as your case progresses.  These "friends" may have done or said things that caused your arrest.  In some cases, friends become co-defendants.  If so they may try to influence you in order to help their case.  They might tell you to lie for them or they might even testify against you. 

During the pretrial process and the jury trial, your lawyer and the entire Defense Team are the primary social group and network that you are involved with.  Support them, encourage them, and be accountable and responsible to them.

Determine what to do with your life.  Figure out what you want to do and where you want to go in life.  It is a time for soul searching.  It's time to take control of your life and stop letting situations control you.  Prioritize!  What is it that really matters most to you?

When your life gets on track again after your case is over, you may look back at it and realize that this was a worthwhile, life-changing experience.  You will change.  You just might embrace the American Dream and apply its promise of success to your own life.  Do you know what the American Dream is?  Every person from whatever prior circumstances who sets goals and then works hard to achieve them can become whatever they want to be.  The American Dream lives within you.  When you find your dream and passionately pursue it, the American Dream will work for you, too.


For more helpful information on success strategies for a person charged with a crime, contact

Ira Still, Esquire
Web:              http://www.istilldefendliberty.com/
Info Blog:     http://istilldefendliberty.blogspot.com/

Ira Still has been a criminal defense trial lawyer in Florida for over 30 years.  He successfully represents his clients on all crimes and in all courts.  Ira has had many, many jury trials and is well known in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale as a very successful trial and appellate lawyer. He has argued death penalty collateral appeals in the Florida Supreme Court and in various District Courts of Appeal.  He has filed briefs in the United States Supreme Court.  Ira has tried high profile cases such as police shooting the wrong person; persons charged with shooting police; capital murder and capital sexual battery; violent crimes; drug trafficking; and virtually every other criminal charge.  Ira is also an author, speaker, teacher, mentor and coach.

© 2009.  The Law Offices of Ira Still