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Five Tools A Criminal Lawyer should Use

Statutes

Statutes are laws. Criminal lawyers must have not only an in depth understanding of criminal laws, but also a broad understanding of civil law. It is necessary to have a working knowledge of statute referencing systems in order to look up and understand any statute with ease. This is essential when dealing with a wide range of cases, each with specified bylaws, loopholes and conditions. The processes of court, including rules of court procedure and rules of evidence are based around statutes, so are vital to fully understand and adhere to.

Case Law

The American legal system is based on precedent. It is important, when prosecuting or defending a client, to be well read in past cases relevant to the present situation. Generally, a decision taken in the Supreme Court will have a bearing on the outcome of your case. However, occasionally the precedent set by the Supreme Court will be overturned; future lawyers will note this.
If a previous similar case went in your favour, it will benefit you to point this out; if it did not, you’ll need to be prepared to discuss the differences between your client’s situation and that of the previous situation, or reference relevant cases in which the ruling went the opposite way. If a different ruling from the previous case is reached, this will also serve to aid future cases in referencing the details of your case to defend or prosecute respectively. Case Law is an essential tool for a criminal lawyer, and as such is worth studying in great detail over time.

Legal Encyclopaedias and Treatises

Legal encyclopaedia sets such as American Jurisprudence and Corpus Juris Secundum, are useful secondary resources when gaining background information about laws or gaining practical application pointers. A treatise is a more formal and academic work, concerned with investigating or exposing principles of a particular topic or subject. Well known legal treatises include Collier on Bankruptcy and Weinstein’s Federal Evidence.

An Excellent Address Book

Criminal lawyers require a large number of experts to gain the knowledge to present the most compelling evidence and in the level of detail required. Lay witnesses can give the facts of actions, however a spillage of bodily fluids, for example, needs to be identified by an expert forensic scientist, or they may need to collaborate with a criminologist, or even a criminal psychologist to determine motives. The larger and more comprehensive a criminal lawyer’s address book is, the better job they will be able to do.

Court Forms

Court forms are templates that lawyers provide clients and witnesses with to provide information to the courts. They are a way of extracting evidence in a structured way, in order to organize the information correctly. Some examples of types of court forms include appeals, witness forms, criminal injury forms, criminal case management and criminal procedure rules. Asking clients to fill out these forms enables lawyers to work more efficiently and organize information in a structured and constructive way.