When it comes to matters of criminal law, it pays to be prepared – failing to do so can have serious consequences, including fines, a criminal record, and even prison time.
And one of the best ways of protecting yourself from those outcomes is to engage our criminal lawyers in Melbourne to represent you in court, argue in your favour, and devise a defence strategy.
Of course, it isn’t just a one-way street – in order to formulate a defence, you’ll need to meet your criminal defence lawyer halfway.
Unfortunately, there are a number of common issues our legal experts run into time and time again. In particular, clients who don’t understand:
- What they need to do as the accused
- How the criminal justice system works
To help with that, our lawyers have put together this article briefly going over some of the things we wish that those seeking legal advice in criminal cases knew.
1) Speak to your lawyer before going to the police
Many people assume that going into an interview with a lawyer present is a sure sign of guilt, and that if they just be honest then they’ll clear the air, and they’ll be free to go.
After all, they’re innocent, and thus have nothing to worry about – the truth will come out in the interview.
Unfortunately, this thinking can often hurt your case.
Oftentimes, you may inadvertently say things out of stress which cast suspicion on you, or contradict your story. After all, police interviews can be confusing, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the procedure.
Remember that the criminal justice system focuses on what can be proven, not what you know.
If you misspeak, misremember, or say the wrong thing, you may end up the focus of an investigation instead of being eliminated from it.
This is why access to a criminal lawyer during a police interview is a right available to every single Australian.
If you have a police interview coming up, it’s imperative that you exercise this right by contacting a lawyer to attend your interview alongside you.
In addition to being present on the day, they can also help you prepare for it by hammering out the details and coaching you on interview procedure.
How do you prepare for a police interview? Read our article about your rights, as well as how we can help you.
2) Can a good lawyer get you out of anything?
It’s a common sentiment – one that isn’t helped by media coverage and TV dramas.
You’ve all heard of somebody getting off scot-free from something that they clearly did because they “had a good lawyer” (something that’s usually followed up by the main character getting vengeance on them outside of the system).
As such, many clients come in expecting that we’ll be able to get them out of whatever they’ve been accused of, no problems.
Don’t get us wrong, our team is good at what it does – however, there are some things that even the best criminal lawyers in Melbourne cannot to help with.
Our actual objective is to help you obtain the best outcome possible given the circumstances.
While that usually means arguing for your innocence, it all depends on the circumstances and the strength of your case.
And if those circumstances involve indisputable evidence against you, that can mean shifting gears and arguing for a reduced sentence or arguing for a lesser crime instead.
A good lawyer can do wonders – but we only when there’s a strong legal argument to be made or evidence that supports your innocence. We aren’t miracle workers, we can’t make things up for you, and we can’t guarantee a result.
It’s also worth remembering that certain criminal offenses such as drink driving offences carry with them mandatory sentences. Your lawyer can’t change the law, making it impossible to get you out of these punishments.
In summation, no, we can’t get you out of everything.
This is also why it’s so important that you don’t take any guarantees at face value. Simply put, there’s no way to guarantee a certain result, which is why any lawyer that does offer “guaranteed” results should be taken with a grain of salt.
What we DO guarantee is that we will make as much effort as ethically and legally possible to increase your chances of a favourable outcome.
3) Do criminal defence lawyers know the truth?
It will be much easier for us to present your case if we know the full truth. However, we aren’t omniscient – at the end of the day, all we know comes from the evidence and the facts of the case.
That’s why it’s so important that you talk to your criminal defence lawyer and give them all the details from your perspective.
You should feel comfortable sharing everything, including specific details like the passage of events, times, your state of mind, and what may have motivated your actions.
In addition to helping build a coherent case, having all the facts means that we can respond more effectively to arguments made by the crown prosecution.
For example, new facts might come out during cross-examination of a witness, which the prosecution may use against you.
If we already know the full story, we’ll be able to respond right there and then, and even use a pre-prepared rebuttal.
If you don’t share all the facts however, your criminal defence lawyer may find themselves caught off-guard and unable to respond, harming your case.
One of the reasons individuals accused of crime are hesitant to share is because they’re worried about the information leaking out.
This isn’t something you need to worry about, as we are bound by client confidentiality. Unlike during a police interview, the things you say will not be used against you.
And while we’re on the subject of client confidentiality…
4) Can I tell my lawyer I killed someone, robbed a home, and that I’m guilty of what I’m accused of?
In order to form a legal defence, your lawyer needs to know all the facts.
This all hinges on you trusting your lawyer and feeling confident enough to provide said facts – without this, the entire legal system would fall apart.
Client legal privilege is a key part of maintaining this trust.
Also known as legal profession privilege, this is a common law legal right held by all individuals in Australia who’ve been accused of a crime. This ensures that everything said between you and your lawyer is in confidence.
And that includes any admissions of guilt or wrongdoing.
If you confess to your lawyer, we are obligated to keep this information confidential. We are prohibited by client legal privilege from passing this information to the prosecution or to police (which is one of the reasons the recent Lawyer X scandal was so explosive).
Of course, we also have a moral and ethical obligation as well, which can make these situations extremely difficult for lawyers to navigate.
Confessing to the crime you’re accused of but pleading guilty isn’t the problem. However, if you confess and intend to plead not guilty, we’re obligated by our professional code to cease arguing for your innocence and to instead take a different strategy.
However, we’re still working for you, so you will have the final say in your defence strategy.
If you insist on arguing your innocence in spite of your admission, we will be required to resign from your case – even then though, we are still prohibited from sharing what you said.
5) What criminal defence lawyers look for from their clients
There are many cases of individuals who are accused of a crime trying to protect themselves by choosing to change certain details or even leave them out completely, only for this information to come out during the trial.
Instead of protecting themselves, all they’ve done is impact their credibility and turned a jury or magistrate against them, making it much harder to secure a favourable result.
We lawyers need you to be open and upfront about your case – no detail should be spared.
As we said above, our ability to defend you is dependent on what information you give us. If you refuse to speak with your lawyer, they won’t have all the facts, and may find it difficult to build a strong case in your defence.
Before you see your lawyer for the first time, you need to be ready to answer all of their questions and share everything, even if it goes against your gut instinct.
6) Make sure you choose the right lawyer
When it comes to matters of law, it’s imperative that you choose a lawyer that specialises in the specific types of cases that you’re dealing with – this goes for both civil and criminal law.
And with regard to criminal law, that means choosing a lawyer with experience dealing in your specific types of cases. For example, if you’re facing a drink driving charge, that means choosing a lawyer that specialises in traffic offences and who takes those types of cases.
While the fundamentals and processes of criminal law may be the same across different areas, the devil is in the details, as they say.
Someone who deals with certain types of offences on a regular basis will be more familiar with the points of law, as well as the defences available.
This isn’t to say that they can’t work in other disciplines – however, they won’t have the ingrained knowledge and understanding that a specialist does.
Need a criminal lawyer to represent you?
JDA offers legal assistance, representation, and advice across a broad range of criminal law areas
When you’re looking for the right lawyer to represent you in a criminal case, it’s crucial that you understand what to expect, and what your lawyer needs you to do.
Once you’ve taken all that advice onboard, it’s time to find a legal expert to represent you.
Our criminal lawyers in Dandenong are specialists in a wide range of criminal law areas who can help you get the best outcome in a number of different cases.
And as part of Legal Aid Victoria, we can offer free legal advice in Melbourne for a number of different criminal cases, allowing you to enjoy legal advice and representation without the price tag.