We have all seen the crime dramas play out on television and movie screens. The defendant, judge and jurors sit stoically while the prosecutor and defense attorney thunder through conflicting narratives about what brought everyone to the courtroom. Facts and circumstances laid out in separate storylines. The truth might not be fungible, but there are many ways to interpret it.
Part of a defense strategy between an attorney and their client is to portray the accused in the best possible light. To counter the government’s often one-dimensional depiction of a guilty person caught doing something illegal. To offer an alternative explanation that not only is believable but can appeal to jurors’ sensibilities and sympathies or discredit the police investigation. To show that authorities arrested the wrong person or that the crime never happened.
Translate the facts
There are constitutional rights that protect you from improper search and seizure of your person and property. You can challenge how police gathered evidence. You do not have to answer questions during an interrogation and are entitled to have an attorney present. Let your lawyer tactically contradict the prosecution’s version of events. Consider these narrative elements of a home burglary:
- Confession. You admit to being at the scene of the crime and know what was stolen and from where.
- Denial. Provide an alibi that shows you were out of town during the incident.
- Explanation. Justify why you were at the home and in possession of the property.
A strategizing defense attorney can translate these facts into a story for jurors to grasp what their client was doing. Say you were with a group of friends and followed them into the burglarized house because you were afraid of what would happen if you did not go along. Or that your friend gave you a key to the house while they were away and told you to go ahead and take his obsolete television.
An effective counternarrative could influence how authorities decide to prosecute you in the first place considering most criminal cases end in a plea bargain. The New York Times reported in 2012 that only 3% of federal cases and 6% of state cases went to trial. Therefore, screenwriters provide most of the courtroom drama.
Know your options
There is so much that goes into crafting a defense strategy, from scrutinizing evidence and witness credibility to the client’s story and provable facts. It can make a major difference in the seriousness of the charges and potential jail time.
If you are facing criminal charges it might be helpful to talk with an experienced defense attorney who can analyze the evidence of your case, the nuances of the law and advise you how to proceed.