Louisiana Criminal Defense Topics: A Thorough Investigation is the Foundation to a Successful Defense
Author: Attorney Philip B. Adams
I have often been asked by clients and non-clients what I think the most important aspect of a criminal defense case is. Most people I’ve encountered who have asked me about this question think that the trial is the most significant stage of any criminal case. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If one even occurs, a trial is simply the culmination of months of hard work, preparation, multiple court hearings, client meetings, witness interviews, etc. A trial is tantamount to a play being performed after all of the work that came before the play by all involved parties. A jury will never know how much work went into a given case. Many jurors may naively think that lawyers just spontaneously question witnesses and present evidence with little to no preparation.
In my opinion, which is based on experience in successfully defending clients in criminal cases against seemingly overwhelming odds, the most important aspect of any criminal case is the investigation stage. However, not just any investigation will suffice in a criminal case. To be successful, an investigation in a criminal case must be thorough and meticulous. No stone must be left unturned.
In working each criminal case that I take on, I spend the majority of my time in the investigation stage of the case. Why do I allocate a majority of my time in the investigation stage? A meticulous investigation can be the decisive factor in determining whether a defense succeeds or fails. A single piece of evidence can destroy the prosecution’s case.
When I do arrive in court for the first time, I am confident that I am well-prepared because I know that I spent a significant amount of time in the investigation stage in proactively building the foundation for the house that I will call my client’s defense. I don’t just take the words of police officers at face value as written in police reports. I listen to my clients and grill them with questions to learn everything that I can about what happened that eventually led to handcuffs being slapped on them. I make it a point to investigate each witness involved and learn about personal and criminal backgrounds. When appropriate, I issue subpoena duces tecums for documents, audio recordings, surveillance footage, body camera recordings, dashcam recordings, police reports, etc. before even the first court date arrives. I hire investigators to search for additional evidence if I have a lead that suggests potentially useful evidence may be uncovered through searching. I have these same investigators interview and record witnesses as appropriate. I have learned all too often, for instance, that what is written down and claimed by police officers as being reality conflicts with what my investigators are told by the same witnesses that were previously interviewed by police.
Spending a lot of time in the investigation stage has paid big dividends on behalf of many of my clients. I’ve had many cases, including serious felonies, dismissed outright due to the work I did at the investigation stage. Most of these former clients would agree that a dismissal obtained by proactive work was much more preferred than the stress of an unnecessary trial. In many cases that weren’t dismissed, I’ve uncovered new evidence unknown to the prosecutor that substantially undermined the strength of the state’s evidence. This new evidence later allowed me to work out highly desirable resolutions because my clients had greater leverage. Regardless of any specific outcome, focusing on the investigation stage of the case led to a better result on behalf of the client.
No one’s liberty should be handled lightly. Unfortunately, I’ve had many clients come to me for representation after having been ignored by previous lawyers or after having been told that a plea deal was “a good offer” even though no defense investigation had taken place. Defending those accused of a crime is a privilege and not an entitlement, and accused individuals should feel confident that those who represent them strive to give real meaning to the Bill of Rights embodied in our state and federal constitutions.
If you or someone you know needs an attorney who will “get to the bottom of things” and vigorously investigate your case with care and diligence, hire the right advocate. Visit our “Contact Us” link and contact attorney Philip B. Adams with the Law Offices of Philip B. Adams, LLC to schedule an initial consultation.