If you are set to appear in court for a criminal trial, you’re probably experiencing a lot of emotions that can make thinking clearly more difficult. This can make planning for your trial more complicated, and put you at risk of missing critical things that could turn the case in your favor. However, by knowing in advance all of the things you should do and be aware of, you can help give yourself a greater chance of success. To do this, you should create a ‘preparing for criminal trial checklist‘ that can help you keep track of everything that needs to be done.
To make this even easier, here is a general checklist that you can use to base your own off. However, you should always check with your criminal lawyers to make sure that you have everything you need that is specific to your particular case.
1. Read Through The Complaint
The complaint will be the document that spells out everything that you are being held accountable for, and it will be what the judge has in front of them during the trial. While reading through this, your lawyer and you should work together to build a case that disproves the charges. By doing this, you can help yourself better understand what you are being charged with, as well as how you can best defend yourself.
While reading through the complaint, consider these points.
- What evidence do you and your lawyer need to gather to disprove the statements? How can you go about gathering this evidence before the trial?
- What events have happened since the incident that might have an impact on the case? For example, are there additional charges or damages? Have you attempted to make contact with the other party for reparations? Have you made any payments to the other party?
- Does the complaint tell the whole story as you remember it? If there are any important details that you feel have been left out, you should work with your lawyer to get them added.
2. Preparing Documents and Evidence
Once you have completed a read-through of the complaint and analyzed what it says, you can start considering the evidence that you can present. This step should be near the top of your ‘preparing for criminal trial checklist’, and it’s something that you’ll want to take care of as soon as possible.
Firstly, you’ll want to work with your lawyer, specifically one with experience in your type of criminal case. For instance, if you’re being tried in connection to injuries brought about by driving under the influence, you’ll want to find DUI attorneys that have experience in this arena. This experience will help you get a better idea of the types of evidence you can provide to help prove your side of the case.
When gathering the evidence, make sure that you have copies of all documents with information pertaining to the case. This can include medical bills, receipts from collision repair centers, towing companies, and insurance paperwork. If you’ve given money — or your insurance has — for repairs to the other party, this should also be documented in case the other side tries to say that they haven’t received anything. Similarly, you should keep any documents outlining payments that you have made for repairs to your own car or truck, such as receipts for used truck parts.
Make sure to have copies made of all of these documents, and never turn over the originals to anyone to prevent them from being lost, unless this is specifically asked for by the judge. You should also highlight all relevant information in these documents so that the evidence is easy to find.
If you have a lot of documents, make sure to keep them clipped together in order of association so that they won’t get mixed up together.
3. Keep Track of Communication Between You and the Other Party
While not all defendants in a criminal trial will have communication with the other side, if you are being charged with injuring someone while driving under the influence, the injured party or their family may reach out. If this happens, make sure to keep all transactions and go over them with your lawyer to see if anything they communicate can help your case. For instance, if they make any offers or settlement suggestions, such as covering the cost of repairs or medical bills, you’ll want to bring that up during the trial.
You should also look for any conversations where they may have admitted to anything that can support your side. A criminal accident attorney can help you go through all of these correspondences to find event the tiniest bits of information that could help your case.
If possible, you should try never to respond to any communication without running it by your later first. You don’t want to risk saying something that could likewise benefit their side of the story. For instance, saying that you found used Dodge Ram parts for sale and would be willing to pay for them if charges are changed or dropped. This could be taken as an admittance of guilt showing that you believe you were in the wrong and are willing to make payments in exchange for an out-of-court solution.
3. Look at Your Case’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Another thing to add to your ‘preparing for criminal trial checklist’ is analyzing your case for strengths and weaknesses. For instance, if you’re working with an auto accident lawyer, you could examine laws and road rules that prove you’re either not at fault or that both parties share the blame.
Write out all of the things that you need to prove and consider whether or not you have any evidence for or against them. For instance, if you are charged with reckless or negligent driving, how can you prove otherwise? You should also examine everything that the plaintiff needs to prove and work with your lawyer to come up with counterarguments and weaknesses in their case that you can exploit. Witnesses can be a good way to bolster your case this way if they are able to testify in your favor, and we will touch on that next. However, anything that you can do to undermine the arguments against you, will be in your favor.
4. Identify and Prepare Witnesses
Once you’ve covered a majority of the legal aspects that you need to prove, you can start to consider if there are any witnesses that will be able to help prove your innocence. Witnesses can be a key supporting aspect in your case, and the best witnesses will have first-hand knowledge of the incident, meaning that they were present when it occurred.
Additionally, you should try to choose witnesses that have no reason to lie in the eyes of the court. Close family members, for this reason, can sometimes not be the best witnesses, as their options can be seen as biased. If you’re planning on bringing in an expert for testimony, you should also ensure that they have the correct expertise and that they know how to navigate and conduct themselves during court appearances.
You’ll need to make sure beforehand that all witnesses are actually willing to testify the day of the trial. Some may shy away from the idea of testifying, and it can be difficult to try and pursue them otherwise. While witnesses can be forced to testify if the court issues a subpoena, this can be a tedious process and drag the trial out further.
If the witness is unable to add any key support to your case, you may want to consider if it’s worthwhile to even attempt to bring them in. For instance, in the case of a car collision, a witness that was in the vicinity, but didn’t see the impact wouldn’t have much to add to the case one way or another. Work with your lawyer to decide which witnesses would have the greatest benefit to your side so that you don’t end up wasting time on something that won’t help your case.
5. Practice Your Presentation
Another point that you’ll want to add to your ‘preparing for criminal trial checklist’ is time to practice your presentation delivery. You’ll want to draft an outline of all the points you want to cover that helps prove your side of the case and create a concise delivery format that is simple to understand and direct. If you’re planning on speaking about specific documents, you may wish to number them so that you have an easy way to find them while speaking.
As a defendant, you will be speaking after the other side has laid out its facts and testimony. Any truthful facts do not need to be restated, and instead, you can focus on counterarguments to undermine and disprove their statements. Focus on your defense, and try not to dispute every small issue that the other side brought up. Instead, hone in on the strengths that your case has and the most important points that you have drafted.
Looking at and reading through the complaint, as mentioned in point one, will be essential for this process to work. Without reading that, you won’t know the points that the other side is trying to make, meaning you will be sorely underprepared and unable to provide the necessary defense that you need. Although your lawyer will most certainly read this document, it’s important that you do as well, so that you’re able to keep up and speak for yourself with the help of your attorney.
Your presentation should always be run past your lawyer before being used in court so that they can give you feedback and advice about everything that you touch on. For instance, the language that you use will be important, and being concise and polite to the other side is essential. Your lawyer will be able to tell you if you need to add, remove, or rephrase anything in order to make your defense as strong as possible.
6. Get Tested
Although some trials are being held remotely, many still require in-person attendance. However, because of the Delta variant, some locations are experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases. Because of this, if you are scheduled for an in-person court appearance, you’ll want to make sure to find Covid testing services near you and get a test at least three days before your trial. If you do end up receiving a positive test — whether you have been vaccinated or not — it’s important to inform your lawyer so that they can inform the court that the trial needs to be rescheduled. While this can drag out the process for longer, it is essential today for helping to keep everyone as safe as possible, and by being proactive about testing and staying safe, you may even slightly improve your standing in the court.
Being Prepared Is the Best Defense
With these points in mind, you can start to put together your own ‘preparing for criminal trial checklist’ with the help of your lawyer. It is important to remember these specific points so that your checklist can contain everything that you need to be successful in court.
Your ‘preparing for criminal trial checklist’ should be tailored to suit your needs and the type of case that you have. For instance, not every case will have witnesses or auto body repair documents to keep track of. Instead, you’ll need to focus on the evidence that is unique to your situation so that you and your lawyer can create the most effective defense strategies.
Remember to always run everything that you have with your lawyer first, and never try to take things into your own hands. Lawyers have years of training and experience and their one job is to work for your success. With all of this in mind, you can increase your chances of turning the case in your favor and getting cleared or lower charges if possible.