What does a Criminal Defense Attorney do?
A Criminal Defense Attorney represents, and acts on behalf of, a person accused of a crime in all pretrial and trial Court matters.
Which trial decisions does the Criminal Defense Attorney make, and which decisions does the client make?
Generally speaking, the Attorney and the client will work together on all decisions pertaining to the strategy and plan for trial. Specifically speaking, the client has an absolute right to decide whether or not to testify and whether or not to plead guilty.
What does a Criminal Defense Attorney do in trial?
A Criminal Defense Attorney will perform two main functions in trial (1) testing the Prosecutor’s evidence for veracity and admissibility (eg: can we believe it and should it come into evidence at all), and (2) persuading the Jury to see the case from the perspective of the person accused.
What effect does my Lawyer have on what comes into evidence (eg: what is admissible)?
It is the Judge that decides what comes into evidence. However, a Criminal Defense Attorney can have a tremendous effect on what comes into evidence. First and foremost, it is the duty of every Criminal Defense Attorney representing a client to completely research and understand the evidentiary issues that will and can arise in the course of a Criminal trial. Also, depending on the evidence attempting to be admitted by the Prosecutor, a Criminal Defense Attorney must have a complete understanding of the evidentiary theory the Prosecutor is offering the evidence under. For example, the police may have executed a warrant in your case, this will need to be tested for several things, including (1) proper mechanics in the affidavit preparation (2) determinations of legal sufficiency (3) probable cause determination from the four corners of the warrant affidavit (4) magistrate process completed correctly (5) general warrant determination (5) comports with both 4th Amendment of US Constitution and Article I Sec. 9 of the Texas Constitution (6) sufficient specificity of the person or thing to be searched or seized (7) presence of conclusory statements, etc., etc.
The point here is that even where the Prosecutor is armed with a signed warrant, this area of law is one of the more complex and can be a minefield for untrained Police Officers or Prosecutors. If there is a warrant in your case, a Criminal Defense Attorney should test that warrant the the fullest extent possible to ensure that their client’s rights are fully protected.
Attorney Kyle Watkins has written hundreds and hundreds of search and arrest warrants. Kyle has specifically taught and trained Police Officers and Prosecutors how to write (what is nicknamed) an “airtight” warrant for everything from houses, to cell phones, to blood / DNA, to cars, to businesses, to computers. It is this training and experience Kyle brings in review of the work done by the Police and Prosecutors in your case to determine what, if any, errors occurred.
What other evidentiary/ admissibility issues can we bring up in my case?
The answer to this question cannot be found on one website, or even one legal publication for that matter. The way to understand it is this: the police cannot violate your rights and then use that evidence in a trial against you. So, this begs the question..
What are my rights?
Let us start with the United States Constitution. This document and the resulting case law (Court decisions) and statutory law (laws passed by elected officials), contains the basis for much of the rights we enjoy today. There are too many to list and explain on one web page, but for example, one of the more well known rights you enjoy is the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. The basis for this right is the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution. The 4th Amendment frequently comes up in criminal cases, as it is at play in many instances (ex: traffic stop, search of anything, etc.) You also have a right not to self-incriminate, this is found in the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution. The 5th Amendment is at play whenever a person is being questioned by law enforcement while in police custody, which potentially happened in your case. Next, we come to the 6th Amendment, this is your right to a speedy and public trial and to have the assistance of an attorney. While the above have been presented in short form, it would be an understatement to say that each of the three mentioned above have produced volumes of law and commentary. Additionally, the list goes on, and on, and on. It takes years for Lawyers to get up to speed, and moreover understand, the US Constitutional rights we enjoy, then we move on to the Federal Law, US Supreme Court decisions/ law, Texas State Constitution, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decisions/ law, and Texas legislative law.
The bottom line here is that there are simply so many potential rights at issue in your case that the best way to defend yourself and your rights is to find an Attorney that you believe will test every piece of evidence and vigorously defend your rights if it is discovered that any one of your rights has been violated.