How to Develop a Defense Strategy

How to Develop a Defense Strategy

A defense strategy is one of the most crucial elements in a criminal case. A good defense strategy can make the difference between imprisonment and freedom. It can make the difference between thousands of dollars worth of fines or a less severe penalty such as community service.

Developing a defense strategy varies considerably from case to case and typically emerges as a criminal defense attorney uncovers more information about the case including the prosecution’s evidence and the defendant’s version of the truth.

Different Versions of the Truth

Defendants in a criminal case will most often benefit from revealing the truth, as they perceive it. For example, if a woman is charged with killing her husband, the “truth” may be that the woman was acting in self-defense or that she had been a victim of physical and emotional abuse in the months before the murder.

Just because a story is told in different ways does not mean that each version isn’t accurate. In a criminal case, the defendant and the attorney must work together to form the most accurate, helpful version of the pertinent facts to the case. However, the result must contain the following elements:

  • Consistency with verifiable evidence – For instance, if your fingerprints were found at the crime scene, your version of the truth should explain why they were there.
  • Potential to win sympathy in a courtroom – Your version of the truth might explain that you tried to prevent the crime from occurring.
  • Explaining the reason for events relevant to the defendant’s version – For example, if you claim you were not in town when the crime occurred, your version of the story should explain why.

In a case where the defendant reveals a spontaneous version of events without strategizing with an attorney, the above factors may be excluded leading to an inaccurate and unhelpful defense claim.

In most criminal cases, multiple versions of the truth may exist. A competent defense attorney will comprise the most favorable version of events to develop a defense strategy that will produce an agreeable outcome in the criminal case such as a not guilty verdict, a guilty verdict of a less serious charge, or a satisfactory plea bargain.

Confessions and Denials

A defendant’s version of events will most likely fall under one of three general categories:

  • “Confession” story – A defendant’s version of events is in accordance with the prosecution’s claims. For instance, you might admit to breaking into a house through a window to steal a television.
  • “Complete denial” story – A defendant’s version of events completely denies the prosecution’s claims. An “alibi” is an example of a complete denial story. In the above example, a complete denial of the crime would perhaps involve claiming that you were home with you wife when the theft occurred.
  • “Admit and explain” story – The version admits that some of the prosecution’s claims are correct, but declares critical differences. For example, you admit to going into the house and taking the television, but claim the homeowner gave you a key to enter and borrow the television.

Formulating a Defense Strategy

A skilled defense attorney must consider a number of factors to develop a “theory of the case” that is agreeable with the evidence and favors the defense. These factors may include:

  • Prosecution and defense witnesses
  • Community outlook on crime and law enforcement
  • The defendant’s moral responsibility

The most successful defense strategies are produced from a defendant’s version of a story, rather than the story itself. Take the following story.

The story: Imagine you were charged with a burglary and you confessed to the crime shortly after your arrest. In addition, an eyewitness is almost positive he saw you at the scene of the crime. However, you admit to your attorney that a few of your friends had actually planned and committed the burglary and you joined them so as not to look bad in their eyes. You also tell your attorney that the police didn’t inform you of your rights to remain silent or consult with an attorney before questioning.

The defense strategy: While you may admit your presence at the scene of the crime, a good defense attorney will formulate a defense theory that claims that police officers improperly forced a confession from a suspect who didn’t know any better in order to compensate for poor eyewitness accounts. This “theory of the case” is in line with your version of events and favors your case. You attorney may then file a pretrial petition seeking to ban prosecutors from bringing the confession into evidence since law enforcement failed to read you your rights. Furthermore, the attorney may argue that the eyewitness account is not strong enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Goal of the defense: The criminal defense attorney’s goal when formulating this strategy would be to obtain a “not guilty” verdict at the trial or discredit the prosecution’s evidence enough to pursue the defense’s preferred plea bargain.

Defendant Coaching Strategies

A qualified defense attorney will do everything in his power to help you build a strong story. However, testifying in a trial can be nerve-racking and prosecutors don’t make it any easier. They will intentionally ask questions that are designed to throw you off course and make their case stronger. Therefore, coaching a defendant to ensure they tell an accurate version of events is a crucial factor in developing a defense strategy. A competent attorney will coach a defendant in a number of ways including:

  • Interviewing methods to rouse a defendant’s memory like asking the defendant to tell the story chronologically.
  • Have the defendant write down their version of important events in their own words.
  • Explain in detail all the charges against the defendant including all known facts in the prosecution’s version of the story.

If a defendant is clued into the information pertaining to every aspect of the case, s/he will be able to help an attorney develop a good defense strategy by providing any and all details that may be favorable to the defense.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime, it is imperative to consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately. An attorney will help you develop a strong defense strategy and ensure your legal rights and interests are fully protected. To speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area click here.

Find a Lawyer Now

Search for a Criminal Law lawyer in your state or province by using the forms to the right.