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Thoughts on Criminal Defense in North Carolina

How Often Do You Tend To Take Criminal Cases To Trial?


It’s really hard to say how often I tend to take criminal cases to trial. I think that criminal trials tend to come in waves. I’ve certainly had years where I’ve tried 10 cases, and I’ve never had years where I’ve tried none. But it’s important to know that there are all levels of trials, just like there are all levels of cases. In smaller, less serious cases, it’s quite common to have trials. The more serious cases come less often because, frankly, there are fewer of them. There are many more people who get speeding tickets than there are people who get charged with first degree murder. So, it’s not as common to be on trial in those types of cases unless you have a really high volume practice, which I don’t.

Do A Lot Of Defense Attorneys Avoid Taking Cases To Trial?

It’s really hard to make a general statement regarding the frequency with which defense attorneys avoid taking cases to trial. There are certainly lawyers who try more cases than others, and some lawyers who have never tried a case. I think it has a lot to do with the type of practice that a person has, as well as the number of cases they have. This is because there are only a number of cases that are going to go to trial; the fewer you have, the less often you go to trial. Ultimately, it should be the client’s choice with the advice of the lawyer. But the advice we give must be based on the objectives of the client, and most clients want to survive. Their objective is to survive. There are times when they really want to take their case to trial, and our job is to lay out the upsides and downsides of doing that in order to help them make an informed decision.

What Factors Do You Consider When Deciding Whether To Take A Case To Trial Or Not?

When deciding whether or not to take a case to trial, the factors that I consider are case-dependent. With that being said, advising a client to go to trial is easiest when they have very little to lose. Those types of situations come in two forms. The first is a terribly serious case in which there is no possible alternative resolution. In other words, if you are facing life in prison and the only plea offer is life, then it’s an easy decision to go to trial. The opposite is true as well. If you are charged with a lower level offense, the state won’t agree to an alternative disposition, and you are not running the risk of going to jail, then it’s an easy decision to take the case to trial. The truth is that most cases are somewhere in the middle, and there is usually an upside and a downside to each decision.

Those are the more difficult decisions and really it depends on the client. What is the client going to lose if he loses the trial, and what does he gain if he wins the trial? What is the person’s prior record? If the person is convicted, will he be on the sex offender registry? There are so many questions that need to be considered that it’s just really hard to narrow it down. There are certainly motivating factors or rewards for entering a plea, and the person has to consider how much time they are shaving off of the potential or likely jail sentence by pleading guilty. That’s quite common in federal court because there are three points for accepting responsibility, which can amount to a lot of time taken off of a prison sentence.

Do Most Clients Have A Clear Understanding Of What A Criminal Trial Is And When It Should Be Used?

Unless people have prior experience with criminal trials, a lot of their understanding of the process is incorrect. For example, many people aren’t aware of the length of time that it takes to get a case to trial, how much investigation or preparation goes into preparing a trial, and ultimately how expensive it is to go to trial. It’s not cheap to defend a case by trial. It takes a lot of time, money, and investigation. Most people have no way of knowing what to expect. Part of our job is to help them understand- from the very beginning- what the process is going to be like.

Can You Walk Me Through The Process Of A Typical Criminal Trial?

The first thing that happens in the process of a typical criminal trial is a pretrial motion phase. This is where the judge would hear motions related to evidence and procedural details. Sometimes those are settled before trial, but oftentimes they are deferred instead. The second thing that happens is a jury selection. In North Carolina, lawyers participate in jury selection, and they can last anywhere from an hour to weeks depending on the type of case.

After the jury is selected, there are opening statements and evidence. At the end of the evidence, the judge will determine the instructions that the jury will get. There will be closing arguments followed by time for the jury to deliberate. So, that’s a brief synopsis of almost every case, from traffic tickets to first degree murder. Depending on the type of case at hand, some portions of the process will take longer than others.

Is It Affordable For Someone To Take A Criminal Case To Trial?

It can be affordable for someone to take a criminal case to trial. Oftentimes, it’s actually the same cost to go to trial as it is to enter a plea. This is because many lawyers- including myself- charge a flat fee, which means that we establish at the very beginning of a case the amount that it will cost. If a lawyer does not charge a flat fee, it does cost more to go to trial. In both cases, however, there are additional expenses if the defense needs to hire investigators or experts to testify. In fact, it’s increasingly common to have digital forensic experts involved.

For more information on Taking Criminal Cases To Trial, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (919) 967-0504 today.

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