A Duty to Defend?

Had a potential client in my office this afternoon to discuss his pending criminal fraud charges. He is currently being represented by the public defenders office. He was concerned about the fact that the PD office would not file a motion to suppress that he felt very strongly about.

An attorney has a duty to represent his client in the best interest in the settlement of his case. This includes plea negotiations, pre-trial motions practice, and at trial if necessary or requested by the client.

Attorneys represent client. It must be remembered that the case belongs to the client not the attorney. That raises a question of how far does the attorney have to go during his representation of the client. Does an attorney have a duty to file a suppression motion if the client feels strongly about?

I believe that an attorney must evaluate the facts and circumstances surrounding the evidence subject to the suppression motion. This evaluation must be conducted by the attorney independently of the client’s wishes and desires. If there is any legitimate basis to prepare, file, and argue a motion to suppress, then I believe the attorney has an obligation to comply with the client’s request.

On the other hand, if there is no legitimate bases to prepare, file and argue a motion to suppress, then I believe the attorney has no obligation to comply with the client’s requests. Based on the attorney’s training and experience, sometimes hard decisions need to be made. It is up to the attorney to explain to the client the reasons for not filing the motion and to support those reasons with facts (or lack thereof) and the current state of the law.

Does your attorney have a duty to defend his client at any costs? NO. The lawyer is in the best position to make strategic decisions based on his/her training and experience. That is the reason that it is always best to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.

If you have questions, contact the Law Office of Michael P. Hanle. I have over 20 years of experience handling criminal defense cases in the federal, state and municipal courts in the Birmingham, Alabama area and surrounding counties.

Jury Trial or Bench Trial?

Last week I tried two assault cases. Prior to trial, my clients and I made a decision to waive our right to a jury trial and proceed with only a judge as the finder of fact and law.

The decision to give up our right to a jury trial required a lot of thought and consideration. My clients and I spent many hours discussing this issue before making the decision.

In the end, it was the right decision. Both of my clients were found Not Guilty by the court.

I have had a number of attorneys call since the acquittal. They wanted to know why we decided to waive our right to a jury trial and what factors we considered before making that decision.

The most important factor in my mind was the judge involved in the case. I knew that my judge was fair and open minded. I also knew that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the alleged victim’s injuries.

We also had facts and witnesses to dispute the alleged victim’s version of the facts. The 911 call was made by my clients friend immediately after the altercation. It was spontaneous and told the story we wanted the court to hear. It was also supported by other witness testimony.

The disadvantage of trying a case to a jury is simple — you just don’t know what facts are going to influence their decision in your case. I didn’t know how the jury would react to the pictures of the alleged victim’s injuries. I didn’t want the jury to inject emotion into the case and ignore the clear facts. I didn’t want the jury to reject the defense theory because the victim was beaten and ended up in the hospital.

In the end, the decision to try this case without a jury came down to trusting the judge and creating a theory of defense that was both believable and made more sense than the story that the victim and his witness were going to tell.

The choice to waive our right to a jury trial worked in this case. Depending on your facts and circumstances it might work for your case.

For more information about my practice or to inquire about criminal defense representation visit my website Michael P. Hanle, Criminal Defense Attorney or call me at 205-930-9717.