When you are facing criminal charges, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of avoiding a conviction and a substantial sentence. There are also mistakes you can make that can significantly impede your ability to present a successful defense at trial. In a previous article, we discussed five of the biggest mistakes you can make as a criminal defendant in Pennsylvania:
- Running from the police
- Throwing drugs or other contraband while running from the police
- Talking to the police
- Posting about your arrest on social media
- Hiring a lawyer who makes promises
But, while these are some of the biggest mistakes you can make, they are by no means the only missteps that can jeopardize your ability to defend yourself in court. Here are ten more critical mistakes you need to avoid:
Mistake #1: Getting Arrested Again
If you are awaiting trial in Pennsylvania criminal court, you do not want to get arrested again while your trial date is pending. You want to show the judge that you are doing everything you can to reform yourself, and being accused of another crime is not going to win you any favors in court. Keep a low profile, keep your distance from anyone who might be doing anything illegal, and try to set yourself up to avoid a criminal record.
Mistake #2: Missing a Court Date
In Pennsylvania, your trial date is not the first date you are required to show up in court. Make sure you know all of the dates you are scheduled to appear and make arrangements to be at the courthouse early. If you are unclear on when you need to be in court (or if you have misplaced your summons), talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Mistake #3: Failing to Request the Prosecution’s Evidence
As a defendant in the Pennsylvania criminal justice system, you are entitled to know what evidence the prosecution intends to use against you in court. This right exists under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the process for requesting the prosecution’s evidence is known as “discovery.” Using the discovery process effectively is crucial to building an effective defense.
Mistake #4: Failing to Understand the Consequences of a Conviction
When facing a criminal charge, you need to know what is at stake in your case. Pennsylvania law imposes severe penalties for first-time and repeats offenders (including mandatory minimum sentences for many crimes); and, if you are hoping to get off easy without putting any effort into your defense, you are going to be sorely disappointed when the sentencing phase of your trial arrives.
Mistake #5: Allowing the Police and Prosecutors to Make Mistakes
Even the most-experienced detectives and prosecutors make mistakes. When they do, the consequences can be significant. From failing to timely read your Miranda rights to failing to disclose key evidence during discovery, if a mistake amounts to a violation of your constitutional rights, you may be able to use it as a defense in court. On the other hand, if you allow a mistake to slide, you could end up being unjustly convicted and facing a lifetime of consequences that could – and should – have been avoided.
Mistake #6: Ignoring Other Potential Defenses
While police mistakes and prosecutorial miscues are two sources of potential defenses, there are numerous other potential defense strategies in Pennsylvania criminal court. As a defendant, you need to thoroughly evaluate all of the defenses you have available. From a lack of evidence to necessity and self-defense, there are many different ways to avoid a conviction or mitigate your sentence at trial.
Mistake #7: Assuming You are Innocent
Regardless of the facts of your case, you cannot assume that you will be found “not guilty” in court. Many of Pennsylvania’s criminal statutes are extraordinarily complex; and, even if you don’t think you committed a crime, the law may say otherwise. In addition, innocent people get convicted at an alarming rate. So, the fact that you didn’t commit a crime isn’t necessarily going to be enough to protect you.
Mistake #8: Assuming You are Guilty
While you cannot afford to assume that you are innocent, it is equally dangerous to assume that you will be found guilty by a jury of your peers. As we mentioned, there are many potential defenses to criminal charges in Pennsylvania. This includes defenses you can assert even if you committed the crime alleged. With all that is a stake in your case (including consequences that will reach far beyond any term of probation or imprisonment), you cannot leave the outcome in the hands of the prosecutors, the jury, and the judge. You need to defend yourself by all means available.
Mistake #9: Waiting for Your Trial Date to Arrive
All of this means that you have work to do before your trial date arrives. The prosecutors assigned to your case will be working on their arguments well in advance of your trial, and you need to match (and preferably exceed) their efforts during each pre-trial phase of your case. With a proactive and aggressive approach, in many cases, it will be possible to secure a favorable result without the need to go to court.
Mistake #10: Waiting Too Long to Speak with an Attorney
All of this also means that you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer is the best way to avoid unnecessary consequences; and, the sooner your attorney can get started, the more time he or she will have to build a strategic defense. It is never too soon to consult with an attorney, but waiting too long can put you in a dangerous position.
Request a Confidential Consultation with Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Fishman
Are you facing a criminal charge in Philadelphia? If so, we urge you to contact us immediately to discuss your case. To speak with criminal defense lawyer Brian Fishman in confidence, call 267-758-2228 or enquire online now.