By: Robert (Bob) Bianchi, Esq. (frm Governor appointed head County Prosecutor)
As former New Jersey Prosecutors and now criminal defense attorneys in NJ, we are often asked what a client should do at the beginning of a criminal investigation or case.
Knowing “both sides” of the New Jersey Criminal Justice system gives our former prosecuting attorneys at The Bianchi Law Group a distinct advantage to leverage our criminal defense clients’ cases to the best possible outcome. By knowing the offense (prosecution), we know how to prepare a good defense.
Here are some important points for anyone facing a crime to remember. It all comes down to the 3 “Rs”:
1. Try your best to relax. You are frightened, typically alone, and understandably intimidated. This is a factor prosecutors and police know very well, and they will use those emotions against you in a number of ways to secure information/data.
2. There is no truer advice, a more valid a statement, a more important choice for a client under investigation or charged with a crime than to keep your mouth shut! Many times the case was only provable by the admissions of the client. And yes, I have seen countless cases where a client (even an innocent one) rehearses a story thinking they will outdo, or fool law enforcement. Not one criminal defendant’s case in my 26 years of criminal trial practice got that one correct. Many also feel that if they exercise their 5th amendment rights, that they will look guilty. Police, prosecutors, judges all know that even innocent people assert their rights. The 5th amendment, as the case law states, is “to protect the innocent as well as the guilty.” Police often offer promises of leniency if you speak with them. Don’t be fooled by this. Only the prosecutor can offer you anything in return for a statement, and it has to be in writing to ensure there are no misunderstandings as to what that benefit will be. Many times a person speaks to the police with promises of leniency and later get nothing in return. If giving a statement is of value to a client, it should be done only with an experienced criminal trial attorney who can ensure that you receive a benefit for that information.
Retain the best Criminal Defense Attorney in New Jersey that you can
3. Get the best criminal defense attorney you can afford – The process of choosing an excellent attorney is difficult with approximately 93,000 lawyers in NJ. So, what is the best way to find a great criminal defense attorney? Here are some good places to start:
a) Hire a former head County Prosecutor or Assistant Prosecutor – Now, not all former prosecutors and assistant prosecutors are as skilled, aggressive and effective as are others. But, former prosecutors know best how prosecutors think, act, investigate and prosecute cases. Being a former Prosecutor is a tremendous asset to any attorney who later chooses to represent criminal defendants. They know the weak spots in investigations and how to leverage them to the benefit of their client. And, former prosecutors were typically in court all the time. Hence, they have far more courtroom time trying cases and negotiating cases. Having been a prosecutor is an invaluable training ground for any good criminal defense attorney.
Also, ask any former prosecutor you are considering hiring what units they were assigned to while serving as prosecutors. Not all former assistant prosecutors have the same level of experience. If the prosecutor was in the homicide, sex crimes, or major crimes unit(s) of a prosecutor’s office, for example, chances are that their colleagues and bosses felt that they had exceptional trial skills, as these units are demanding, intense, and the most important in any prosecutor’s office. Usually, the “creme of the crop” are assigned to these units.
b) Hire a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Criminal Trial Attorney – The certification process of the New Jersey Supreme Court is the most intense, independent, objective, and exhaustive review/evaluation of the skills and abilities of a criminal trial attorney. In New Jersey, there are only approximately 250 attorneys out of approximately 93,000 attorneys who have earned the coveted and rare distinction of being listed as a NJ Supreme Court Certified Criminal Trial Attorney. To be qualified to even be considered for this coveted distinction requires many trials, arguments in court, education credits, years of practice as a criminal trial attorney, peer review, judicial review, and then an intense test to determine the skill of that trial attorney candidate. It is run and monitored by the Supreme Court and every 4 years, an attorney must renew their certification and demonstrate continuing excellence in the area of criminal trial practice. The Supreme Court of New Jersey put this rigorous vetting and testing process into place for the very purpose of educating the public of those criminal trial attorneys who have excelled and are considered experts in the area of criminal trial practice.
c) Pick an attorney that cares about you as a person, as much as they do about your case – The best attorneys are passionate about what they do. They care for their clients’ well-being and respect that they have the lives of human beings in their hands. They will not stop advocating vociferously for you until they have achieved the best result possible result given the facts and law of your case. You need the comfort of knowing that your attorney is doing their best for you. While no attorney can guarantee a result in a criminal case, you should at least know that they care about you and will fight their best to achieve the best outcome they can for you.
Picking the “right” attorney in a criminal matter is the singular most important decision you can make. It is not a time to “bargain shop.” Hiring a great criminal defense attorney may cost more money, but look at it as an investment in your future.
And know most importantly, no matter how bleak your situation looks; no matter how “dark” and “cold” it may seem; and no matter how much you are weighed down by fear and regret; there is always hope!
There may be some pain as in many things in life. But, a proper mindset, a proper attitude, and a great attorney are the essential keys to successful mitigation of the possible consequences of any criminal case, and for your peace of mind.
© 2015 Robert (Bob) Bianchi, Esq.