Selecting the right Criminal Defense Lawyer may be the most important decision you make regarding your case. Like any other occupation, there are some criminal lawyers who are more talented than others, some who work harder than others, and some who have the talent, drive and experience necessary to get the best results when you are facing criminal charges. Make no mistake, criminal defense in New York and elsewhere is an art form and working the case the right way can make the difference.
Many cases require what I like to call the “right result” approach – making the prosecutor and the judge realize the humanity of the client and the myriad mitigating circumstances that call out for either a dismissal of all criminal charges or offering the client a non-criminal disposition so that he or she will not have a criminal record. Whether it is the wealthy housewife who shoplifts at Saks because she is having a mid-life crises, the young man who commits a robbery to demonstrate his toughness to his friends, or the twenty-something who sells drugs to an undercover police officer out of complete foolishness; the “right result” approach, if handled the right way, can often lead to spectacular results. Indeed, I’ve had cases where the client is caught on video committing a felony dismissed outright by the prosecutor because they were convinced it was the right thing to do.
The “right result” approach takes into account that most prosecutors are good people who want to do the right thing; it is this sense that led many of them to become prosecutors in the first place. In order to be successful, a strategy needs to be developed that slowly brings the prosecutor into the defense lawyer’s view of what the “right” result is. Trying to hammer an Assistant District Attorney (or anyone else for that matter) is not usually very effective. You need to “chisel” away at the prosecutor’s initial look at the case (that your client is guilty and needs to be punished) until they see the other side. When a prosecutor embraces the defense view of the case, extraordinary things can happen- I’ve had cases where the prosecutor puts their own job and career at risk by dismissing a case against his/her supervisor’s wishes.
Yet not all cases are ripe for the “right result” approach. There are some cases that require what I like to call “bare-knuckle” litigation- challenging every aspect of the prosecutor’s case with carefully drafted motions, defense experts and seasoned investigators. This approach is generally required in high profile cases and cases with very serious allegations.
For example, a client with a criminal history is charged with possession of a loaded firearm and the prosecutor believes that the client intended to use it unlawfully. In such a case the “right result” approach is unlikely to get you very far. Only by challenging every aspect of the prosecutor’s case and making the prosecutor understand that the defense has a good chance of winning the pre-trial hearings and/or trial will the criminal defense lawyer be able to convince the prosecutor to make a reasonable offer and achieve the best result. And if the prosecutor does not make an offer and a trial is necessary, the bare knuckle approach should put you in the best position to win.
Of course, there are many cases where a hybrid of these two approaches is the best way to approach the case. It takes a lot of experience and understanding of people and the system to understand the best way to approach a case. The problem is that not many lawyers are good at either of these approaches, let alone both, and thus choosing the right criminal defense lawyer for your case is not always an easy endeavor.
There is a word in a Hebrew called “sechel” which literally means “wisdom” but has a more nuanced definition- it is someone who “gets it,” someone with the depth of wisdom and common sense to inherently understand a situation and know the best way to handle it. So make sure your lawyer has the “sechel” to handle your case the right way.