How do clients prepare for a criminal law trial? Dr Marc Saupin clearly explains the client process, and how they should best prepare.
Since my last vlog on trial preparation, I’ve received a number of phone calls from clients and the general public asking an excellent question, which is what can they do to prepare for their trial? Well, the first thing I say to clients in every case is you must know the case against you. So when I ask our clients to read the brief, they have a copy of the brief, whether it’s five pages or 5,000 pages. We make a copy, we give it to you, you’ve got it for any number of months before your trial, and we expect you to have read that brief just like we have read the brief. In our case, we read it countless times. Our experience with clients is that they do a really good job in understanding what happened or what the police are saying happened on that night and they’re able to compare and contrast what they say actually happened.
It all depends on the nature of the alleged offence. It all depends on the number of witnesses. It all depends on a whole range of things. But what you need to be certain about is that you know what the police are saying about you. Now, that’s not too hard a deal. You were there unless you’re one of those cases where it’s a case of mistaken identity and you weren’t even in the country when this is alleged to have happened. In most cases, you were there at the time of the event, the event being the alleged crime. So you need to have some skin in the game. You need to be able to tell your lawyer, your trial lawyer, in this case, me, what exactly happened that day or that night.
Now what I say to clients is, “Go away and make some bullet points, write everything down.” Because memory is a funny thing. Often you won’t get a trial for at least 12 to 18 months, sometimes two years from the time of your arrest. That’s how long it takes to go through the criminal procedures court system. It takes that long and overtime you can forget things very easily. So I say to clients, “Make bullet points about what happened that night. Send them to me.” I’ll read them. I study them, I put them away in your file. It helps me prepare your trial. The second thing you can do is let me know or put down again in note form what was your state of mind at the time of the event? What were you doing leading up to the event?
Give me some context in which I can defend your matter. Otherwise, it just becomes a case of you saying things didn’t happen. I didn’t do it and relying on your trial lawyer to win a case so to speak. In other words, to obtain an acquittal. So I find that clients who have some skin in the game, and by that I mean who are very well rounded and knowledgeable about the case against them, who have gone through all the witness statements, who have gone through the incident report. It’s daunting, but if you pace yourself and you set time aside in a quiet place to look at the prosecution brief, to know what’s being said about you, then when we do meet for trial proofing, it becomes a much smoother, fluid and productive process because we read the prosecution brief. We do more than that, we study it.
We go over it and over it and over and over to the point where it’s almost as if I, as your trial lawyer was there at the event when it is alleged to have happened. So spend some time looking at the prosecution brief. Also, understand and write down when your lawyer speaks to you about the legal parts of your case. For example, lawyers talk about the elements of the offence. So for an offence such as an assault, it will have certain elements and I won’t go through them in detail, but it’s the application of force without someone’s consent. And go through that with your lawyer, sit down with them and say, “What are the elements of the offence?”
That will surprise a lot of lawyers, including me and we’ll go through it so you know exactly what the state says you did in terms of the alleged offence, the actions you did in order to bring these charges. So once you understand the laws that give rise to these offences, then you’re in a better place to respond to them. And also don’t do one thing, do not Google. Do not look around the subject matter because Google law, like Google medicine, will lead you up wrong pathways. So make notes, keep in contact with your lawyer. We have a very strong policy of communicating with our clients on a very regular basis to ensure that we move together towards trial.
And make sure that you have a very clear picture in your mind about what happened that night. So if your trial is 12 months later or 18 months later, it was as if the trial happened or the event happened the night before. Thank you.