Decisions That The Client Can Make In Criminal Cases

Business man in handcuffsWhen an attorney and a client enter into a lawyer-client relationship, one area of confusion is who makes certain decisions. There is an assumption that it is the lawyer’s way or nothing. After all, clients seek attorneys because they are the ones who have the most knowledge in the area. Conversely, it is the client who has to serve the time. This blog will briefly explain what decisions rest in the client’s hands and what the attorney may decide to achieve the client’s objectives.

Client’s Decisions

Clients have the right to decide:

  • Pleas. Clients have the right to enter into a guilty or not guilty plea.
  • Accepting or rejecting a plea bargain
  • Waiving a jury trial
  • Testifying at trial
  • Appealing

The Lawyer’s Decision

Lawyers may decide:

  • What witnesses to call
  • The method used in cross-examining prosecution witnesses
  • What motions to make
  • Selection of the jurors
  • The evidence to introduce

The Gray Area

Although the Rules of Professional Conduct provide guidance as to whose hands the decisions rests on, it is important to understand that the RPC is merely there to suggest an answer. Each case is unique. There is no bright line that separates the lawyer’s decisions and the client’s decision.

Regardless, clients should have active participation in their case. After all, it is there fate that is at stake. Clients that want to be involved in their own case should:

  • Tell their lawyer that they want to participate in decision making
  • Keep in constant communication with their lawyer
  • Insist that their lawyer update them
  • Insist that the lawyer explain the consequences of various decisions
  • Ask for copies of documents

Allowing The Lawyer To Perform Their Duty

As stated above, it is the lawyer who has the expertise. Without a doubt, clients should actively participate by making certain decisions. However, it is simply not feasible or recommended that defendants make all the decisions. Some decisions should be made based on the lawyer’s experience and knowledge, which clients do not have. Often times, due to time restraints, it is not feasible to ask for the client’s permission before making a decision.

Lawyers at Ariano & Reppucci strongly believe that transperancy between lawyer and client is essential in a working relationship. Whether it is required or not, we believe that a client’s active involvement enhances the relationship and promotes a team atmosphere. Call now us now to see how we can move forward together in your case.