Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

friend wants me to appear for him on criminal case

Never done criminal law. Charge is assaulting a cab driver. prestiiigiousone05/22/18
What jurisdiction? Are you licensed in that jurisdiction? isthisit05/22/18
New York, yes, I'd just be appearing to represent my friend prestiiigiousone05/22/18
Tossing it out there and I've been in a similar situation - jd4hire05/22/18
Yeah I'd explain that you're not a criminal lawyer and you m flharfh05/22/18
"Charge is assaulting a cab driver. Would I be able to do it jeffm05/22/18
I would echo what jeffm says, and I would add that I think i becksquire05/22/18
Starting with the jury charge is an even better approach. T jeffm05/22/18
Thanks. I already told him to get a lawyer who actually doe prestiiigiousone05/22/18
Tread carefully because it is your friend. Can you learn eno thirdtierlaw05/22/18
It wouldn't just be as a favor. It would also be to get som prestiiigiousone05/22/18
I don't know what your practice area is now, but I thoroughl thirdtierlaw05/22/18
What is your practice area? If you’ve been in court, sure rainsofcastamere05/22/18
You cannot represent friends or family competently because s defensivelawyer05/22/18
Don't do it! You should never represent a friend, even if anothernjlawyer05/23/18
Agreed. esquirewalletsmatter05/27/18
Don't do it. You're not competent and you will eventually re cranky05/23/18
If he can’t afford a lawyer. I’d suggest he get one app qdllc05/24/18
Nothing more fun or interesting than unintentionally getting trollfeeder05/24/18
Do not represent a friend. Do not represent a friend. Do not orange905/27/18
prestiiigiousone (May 22, 2018 - 4:48 pm)

Never done criminal law. Charge is assaulting a cab driver. Would I be able to do it? What would I need to know?

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isthisit (May 22, 2018 - 4:49 pm)

What jurisdiction?
Are you licensed in that jurisdiction?
Are you standing in for another lawyer or are you taking on the case?

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prestiiigiousone (May 22, 2018 - 5:55 pm)

New York, yes, I'd just be appearing to represent my friend

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jd4hire (May 22, 2018 - 5:57 pm)

Tossing it out there and I've been in a similar situation - would you truly be doing a favor by representing your friend in a criminal matter for which you have zero experience? While it may save them some money, you might put them in a worse of position had they just spent the money and paid for an attorney who regularly does this. I'd try and refer your friend to an attorney who does criminal defense and might be flexible with fees. Can you call in any favors?

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flharfh (May 22, 2018 - 6:00 pm)

Yeah I'd explain that you're not a criminal lawyer and you might do more harm than good. And learning enough to do a competent job is a big time commitment, more than is worth it for a single case. Besides, if you screw it up, or if he just thinks you did, you could lose your friend.

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jeffm (May 22, 2018 - 6:18 pm)

"Charge is assaulting a cab driver. Would I be able to do it? What would I need to know?"

Find your state's penal code and read the offense. Make an outline of the elements of proof required. Look at the penal code's statutes pertaining to justification, if there is the possibility of self-defense, mistake of fact, etc. Are there lesser-included offenses which might pertain? If so, it'd be something like "petty assault" if the client was charged with "aggravated assault."

Know the procedure. All you have to do is ask other attorneys and read.

Sounds like a great case if you want to cut your teeth in criminal law. I'm not suggesting you have a winner, but at least you have a case. Just read the law until it makes sense - element-by-element. Don't assume or concede elements where the state carries a burden of proof. See if there isn't 1 or more elements where the state can't provide proof of it beyond a reasonable doubt.

In many cases, state of mind (mens rea) is among the elements. This can be one of the most difficult elements for the state to prove.

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becksquire (May 22, 2018 - 6:24 pm)

I would echo what jeffm says, and I would add that I think it would be prudent to go the jury instructions and see what the requisite findings are for a conviction. If I had a situation like this and my friend was up sh!t creek, I would try to work out a good resolution like a deferred entry of judgment, etc.

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jeffm (May 22, 2018 - 6:34 pm)

Starting with the jury charge is an even better approach. That will hone you in on the parts of the statute which are applicable.

And yes, learn about ranges of punishment and "the going rate" for plea deals. Be aware that certain deals can be made to avoid a record of conviction, as becksquire suggests.

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prestiiigiousone (May 22, 2018 - 6:36 pm)

Thanks. I already told him to get a lawyer who actually does criminal law, but I'm reconsidering because I think it might be a good and interesting experience.

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thirdtierlaw (May 22, 2018 - 6:57 pm)

Tread carefully because it is your friend. Can you learn enough to wing it? Sure. But just remember that everyone has a "friend's uncle whose wife's friend got 'x' sentence for the exact same charge." So your friend may be wondering why you didn't get the same, likely made up, outcome.

Criminal law isn't a technical area of law. There is a lot of posturing and if it gets to trial showmanship. You're an unknown entity to these prosecutors, so definetly double check with other attorneys about whether or not the offer made by the state is fair. What may seem fair to you as a noncriminal attorney may be much harsher of a punishment than another defendant whose attorney appears with the prosecutor numerous times a week will get.

The other big warning to give, figure out what your client is looking for. Is he denying it even happened or that there is a self-defense claim? If so, are your prepared to go through the time sink of a trial, "as a favor for a friend?"

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prestiiigiousone (May 22, 2018 - 8:23 pm)

It wouldn't just be as a favor. It would also be to get some experience. Maybe I could do this on the side, etc.

I'm going to find out more about the case before proceeding.

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thirdtierlaw (May 22, 2018 - 8:37 pm)

I don't know what your practice area is now, but I thoroughly enjoy criminal law. I've found the criminal bar to be much more collegial than most other practice areas and you're rarely dealing with opposing counsel that are jerks. Most prosecutors have moved past taking any of it personally. Good luck!

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rainsofcastamere (May 22, 2018 - 11:03 pm)

What is your practice area? If you’ve been in court, sure maybe. If you’re a transactional bro I’d respectfully refer him to reasonably priced criminal lawyer.

Edit: be sure your malpractice insurance covers this if you do it. I’m a corporate lawyer and mine definitely does not cover me for criminal law work.

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defensivelawyer (May 22, 2018 - 11:19 pm)

You cannot represent friends or family competently because sometimes you have to try hard to make them plead and I would not act the same w friends or family.

So no, it is not a good idea ever IMO

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anothernjlawyer (May 23, 2018 - 10:37 am)

Don't do it!

You should never represent a friend, even if you are competent to do so. You will not get paid, and you will lose the friend. Even worse, representing a friend where you are not competent to do so will result in several things happening:

1) You will do a poor job for the client.
2) You will be very stressed out because you will personalize the outcome.
3) You will not get paid.
4) You will lose the friend.

If you see your friend's problem as an opportunity for you to get "experience" in criminal court, you have a strange concept of friendship.

Refer him to someone. If you don't know someone to refer him to, give him the number to the local bar association.

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esquirewalletsmatter (May 27, 2018 - 5:20 pm)

Agreed.

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cranky (May 23, 2018 - 11:13 pm)

Don't do it. You're not competent and you will eventually resent not getting paid for your time. I hate it when friends ask for free legal advice. Don't risk committing malpractice and losing your friend too. For his own good, he needs to pay for an experienced lawyer.

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qdllc (May 24, 2018 - 9:34 am)

If he can’t afford a lawyer. I’d suggest he get one appointed and see if you can’t pro bono second seat. At least you would be a better judge (sic) if his lawyer is giving sound counsel on his case. I suggest this because in most cases, the court appointed lawyer must meet minimum qualifications and will be better equipped to defend the case than you would be, but often they are so overworked and underpaid that their “best interest” is to plead out a case rather than zealously defend their client.

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trollfeeder (May 24, 2018 - 10:07 am)

Nothing more fun or interesting than unintentionally getting your friend a much worse outcome then if he had competent counsel.

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orange9 (May 27, 2018 - 10:48 am)

Do not represent a friend. Do not represent a friend. Do not represent a friend. Do not represent a friend. Do not represent a friend. Do not represent a friend.

Get the point? Read everything anothernjlawyer wrote, and read it again, and again, and again, until it sinks in. You do not use a friend as "a learning experience" or "a fun experience."

I once represented my cousin in a DWI. He told me his friend had a case and made an appointment, and then my cousin showed up at my office at the appointment time and said "promise to keep a secret." It was a terrible experience and each night before a court date I literally stayed up all night stressing about every possibility and how it could go wrong.

I ended up beating the DWI for him, and it turned into a very rewarding experience for both of us, but it could have gone very, very badly. I would not do it again. He actually got another small charge a few years ago, and I called a friend for him. I was (and am) still drained.

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