How Does the Public Defender Prepare My Case?
Defense Case Preparation
Between the sounding date and the trial date, the child needs to meet with the
defense attorney to discuss the case. The defense attorney will begin preparing
for trial by filing motions, investigating allegations and other aspects of the
case as well as taking depositions and interviewing witnesses. The client has
the right to assist in the preparation of his own defense.
One of the most significant ways a client can assist in the preparation of his
defense is by providing the defense attorney with the names and addresses of
witnesses not listed by the prosecution, who can testify to circumstances that
may prove the client is not guilty or help show that the crime was not as
serious as the prosecutor contends. The client and his family must not contact
the alleged victim or the witnesses listed by the prosecution or send other
people to talk to them because the prosecutor may charge the client with an
additional crime of tampering with witnesses. It is the defense attorney’s job
to speak to the witnesses and alleged victim.
The defense attorney may file motions requesting the witness list, police
reports, witnesses' statements, reports of experts and any other evidence in the
case. The process by which the prosecution and the defense search for the facts
of the case is called “discovery.” The deposition of witnesses is a discovery
tool for uncovering the facts. In a deposition, the prosecutor and defense
counsel are present to take the sworn statements of witnesses. Discovery
depositions are very useful for both sides because it allows them to evaluate the
strengths and weaknesses of the case prior to trial.
The defense attorney may speak with the prosecutor to get some idea of the
prosecutor’s evaluation of the case. Depending on the strength of the defense’s
case, the prosecutor may decide to dismiss all charges, offer a lesser sentence
or drop some of the charges against the child in exchange for a plea of guilty
or no contest to other charges.
In nearly 98% of juvenile cases, there is no trial. Cases are disposed of by the
prosecutor not filing charges, the case being dismissed or the client entering a
guilty or no contest plea or completing a diversion program.