Criminal Defense Guide
It is integral how an attorney and a
defendant collaborate to produce their version of events regarding a criminal
charge. The term
"version" is a
legal term denoting a number of items surrounding a given event. For example, a defendant’s version of events
will include explanations for incriminating evidence, their motivations, their
timeline leading up to an alleged crime, and any other statement a defense
attorney and their client plan to make regarding the criminal case at
hand. Most important, however, is the
open and collaborative communication between a defendant and their attorney. This communication, version of events, and
other considerations all culminate into a defendant’s overall defense
the Defense Version of Events
When a defendant and their defense counsel prepare
the defense’s version of events, a defendant should be aware of the following
privilege protects any statements you make in confidence to your
attorney. Therefore, being honest
and open to your attorney’s questions is the best route of mounting a
sound legal defense.
determining the defense version of events, you and your attorney are not
concocting a grand lie, but rather, using the existing evidence and future
evidence as a means of corroborating your version of the crimes in
- The version
of events is the basis of preparing objective counterarguments to the
charges and evidence brought forth by prosecutors. This defense strategy, and in turn the
version of events, may be added to, altered, or changed during the course
of a trial.
In a broad sense, defendant’s version of events
falls into one of three potential categories in criminal cases, which include:
- A complete denial of prosecutor’s
charges, which will require corroborating evidence such as an alibi,
forensic evidence, and witness testimony for a defendant to argue successfully.
- An admission and explanation of events
leading up to prosecutor’s charges, which explain a different version of
events than those proposed by a prosecutor, which will require forensic
evidence, eyewitness testimony, and potentially expert witness testimony
- A confession version of events occurs
when a defendant readily admits to all charges and the version of events
proposed by prosecutors, which may be a defense strategy to obtain a
favorable plea bargain and reduce liability for other crimes.
Using this information, other witness testimony,
community attitudes toward the respective crime, the evidence available, and
the past criminal history of a defendant, a defense attorney will compile what
is known as the “theory of the case”. Sometimes,
a defendant may erroneously reason that if they have nothing to hide, or are
willing to speak to police candidly, they should do so right away in an attempt
to clear their name. This is highly
inadvisable, and almost every instance, speaking directly to law enforcement
will never promote your defense, but will actually weaken or ruin your defense
Ethical and Legal Considerations before Preparing a Defense Strategy
Each case is unique and defendants must keep this in
mind when actually assessing their own individual case. However, there are some universal
considerations that defendants should take into consideration when developing a
defense strategy with their attorney.
- An attorney
cannot ethically call witnesses to testify on your behalf if it is known
that they will offer testimony that is likely perjury.
- An attorney
cannot advise, encourage, or help a defendant give perjured testimony,
which would occur if a defense attorney learned from the defendant one
version of a story and the defendant took the stand and testified
- This does
not necessarily include if defendant changes their stance or disagrees
with their attorney, but rather, in instances of blatant perjury, which a
lawyer cannot ethically encourage in any fashion.
lawyers have an ethical duty to prepare defendants for trial, including
preparing their defense strategy, documents, and if necessary, coaching
defendants for courtroom behavior and examination.
statement previously made to police, which conflicts a defendant’s version
of the events during a trial, will be brought up and potentially damage
the credibility of an entire defense.
- An attorney
may not request your version of the events as an ethical precaution, and
instead, look to rebuff prosecutor’s cases by showing the crimes in
question are not “without a shadow of a doubt” and other legal
technicalities as well.