The scene of the crime: Defending a criminal charge
The “scene of the crime” – what is the significance of this concept to a criminal defence lawyer? Whether it is a charge of drinking and driving, or sexual assault, or domestic assault, or robbery, or drug trafficking, or fraud, or most any other criminal offence, all are usually alleged to have taken place somewhere – the scene of the crime. But, to the thinking criminal defence lawyer, this is not merely just another fact in the case. It is far more than that. It is a potential source of information – information that can be leveraged to create true power in the defence of a criminal charge. In many instances there is much value to the criminal defence lawyer in visiting the “scene of the crime”. Where permitted (and in the discretion of the lawyer), this is best done in the company of the client. This is because typically, the client will have many first hand details that the lawyer will not. As a result, the client will be able to walk the lawyer through the “scene of the crime” in a meaningful way (Of course, there are situations in which a client should not attend the “scene of the crime”. An experienced criminal defence lawyer will know when that situation arises.). A prepared lawyer will show up to the “the scene” with a camera, a notepad, and, perhaps, an audio recording device and maybe even an independent witness that can testify about “the scene” in court, should the need arise. What is there to be gained by visiting the scene of the crime? It can be the potential source for real evidence such as photographs and measurements, which can be introduced at the trial. An examination of the “crime scene” may also help the criminal defence lawyer to determine whether there may be other witnesses that need to be interviewed and called to trial. For instance, a viewing of the scene of a motor vehicle accident in an ‘impaired driving causing bodily harm’ case may lead the criminal defence lawyer to the conclusion that an accident reconstructionist should be consulted. At a more basic level, an examination of the “crime scene” can help the criminal defence lawyer better understand the case and help him or her formulate a trial strategy and, more specifically, determine what evidence should be introduced, which witnesses should be called and what and how they should be questioned. In short, the “scene of the crime” can be a rich source of information for the defence and should not be ignored.