Choosing a Sex-Crime Defense Attorney
Michigan law does not recognize specialties in most practice areas. Therefore, there are no recognized specialties like "criminal defense attorney" or "sex crime defense attorney." This leaves Michigan residents with the difficulty of deciding which criminal defense attorney is most qualified to defend against a criminal sexual conduct charge. Many defendants have had a hard time deciding which lawyer they should hire, or even if they should hire a lawyer. If you, your son or daughter, or someone in your life has been accused of Rape, child molestation, child pornography, Statutory Rape, fondling or some other form of sex related crime, there are a number of questions you should ask when selecting a lawyer.
Should I stick with my court-appointed attorney?
The first question often asked is whether to settle for a court-appointed lawyer. There are many good court-appointed lawyers in Michigan. However, we often hear complaints like "my court-appointed attorney is not doing anything for me" or "I can't get ahold of my court-appointed attorney". Unfortunately this is often a matter of economics. In many Michigan counties, court-appointed attorneys are paid very poorly to represent clients who cannot afford retained counsel. This often means that court appointed attorneys are very busy working on a large volume of cases. In many instances, they have the competence and skill, but not the time, to do all that should be done for a particular client. A defendant accused of Criminal Sexual Conduct or any other sex crime in Michigan should insist on an attorney who can handle this type of case with the highest degree of experience, dedication and skill. If you are intending to hire an attorney, we advise asking the following questions:
Does the attorney have enough time and staff support to work on my case?
Defending sex crimes is time intensive. If your attorney is not actively working on your case, it will be difficult to get a good defense in a jury trial. The vast majority of work on your case should be done before trial. Preparing a case for trial usually takes much more work in the office and with the client than what will be spent in court at a trial. Also, inquire about other attorneys in the firm, paralegals, secretarial and research staff in the firm.
If an attorney does not have time, support and staffing to give your case the attention it deserves, you should find an attorney who does before it is too late.
Does the attorney have the experience that I need to get the best result?
There are no hard, fast rules on how much experience is needed for a particular criminal case. Many of the attorneys in our firm won the first trial they ever appeared in, but that is probably the exception rather than the rule. Clearly some clients do well with competent but inexperienced attorneys. However, if you were about to have a high risk surgery would you choose a doctor who had no surgical experience? Of course not! Kronzek & Cronkright attorneys have been defending CSC 1st degree, CSC 2nd degree, CSC 3rd degree, CSC 4the degree and most other sex crime cases for well over 15 years. Our case results speak for themselves!
Does the attorney take cases to trial or do all of their cases end with guilty pleas?
It would be a stretch for the majority of attorneys to call themselves "trial attorneys." A true trial attorney will take cases to trial with a confidence that other attorneys will not have. Unfortunately, there are many attorneys who hesitate to take a case to trial when it should be defended in court. Generally, if an attorney does not take cases to trial, the prosecution knows it. Trial attorneys prepare all or most of their cases for trial. In doing so, they increase the chances of getting an acquittal (a not guilty verdict) and they increase the chances of getting a better plea offer from the prosecution. Even clients who don't want their case to go to trial are typically better off with an experienced and motivated trial attorney.
Is the attorney comfortable with questioning or cross examining a child witness?
In our practice, we are seeing an increased amount of allegations brought by young children. Often a stepson, stepdaughter, granddaughter, niece or nephew as young as 3, 4, or 5 will make a false allegation that results in a phone call to the police or CPS (Children's Protective Services.) If your case involves child witnesses, consider this: many attorneys have no idea how to navigate the intricacies of effectively cross-examining a child witness. There is a common perception that cross-examining a child who has made an allegation of sexual assault or child molestation is harmful to the child. When a child is on the witness stand everything in the courtroom changes; judges are uncomfortable, the prosecutor is uncomfortable and many times the inexperienced defense attorney is uncomfortable. In that environment, defense attorneys often do little to properly examine the child witness. We have seen countless cases where the defense attorneys did nothing more than repeat the prosecution questions at a preliminary examination or trial. Many defense attorneys are afraid of upsetting a judge if they ask probing questions or challenge a child's ability to remember events. If your case has a child witness making sexual allegations, you must have an attorney with specialized skills in dealing with children on the witness stand.
Even though it is not an official specialty, child allegation criminal sexual conduct cases are amongst the most difficult cases any Michigan criminal defense attorney ever deals with. In fact most attorneys never deal with these CSC cases at all. And those attorneys that do occasionally handle them are often at a loss to understand how to handle them properly. If you are accused by a minor of rape or molestation, you should consult with an attorney who has a practice focused on this very specific area of law. Our law firm deals with these cases daily and has for many years. Children lie, and sometimes they make false accusations because they have been led to believe something that is not true. It is very difficult to deal with this type of case if you are working with an attorney who is uncomfortable with children on the witness stand. Our attorneys receive extensive training in dealing with young witnesses, expert witnesses and juries that hear CSC cases in Michigan.
Does the attorney work cheap?
On this question, we have to face a hard reality: you get what you pay for. In our office, we often say that when an attorney tells you what their services are worth, you should listen. For example, an attorney who is willing to take a CSC case for $1,000.00 is probably worth that. But can you afford a cheap attorney? Charles Royce, co-founder of Rolls Royce is quoted as saying, “Poor quality is remembered long after low prices are forgotten.” Penalties for sex crime convictions often involve very long prison sentences and a lifetime of being on the sex-offender registry [SORA]. Many of our clients simply cannot afford the defense that they really need without the help of family and friends. We work hard with our clients to figure out ways to find the budget for the fight they really need.
Will the attorney take my calls and respond to my e-mails?
We have a simple policy. We take our calls when we are available; we return our calls promptly when we are not. Our staff and our partners get involved immediately when a client is having difficulty contacting their trial attorney. Why? Because our view is that no client should ever be out of communication with his attorney. Our practice philosophy is that if we are not working with you, we are not working for you. Our vision of an effective "defense team" always includes the client as one of the primary players. We do not accept clients when we think they will not work closely with us. You should not accept an attorney who will not work closely with you.
Am I really getting a defense team?
Terms like "Criminal Defense Team" are often used loosely because it makes a good impression. However, it is fair for you to ask what the team would consist of. At Kronzek & Cronkright, it is unusual to have only one attorney working on a serious case. We use our own legal research staff, we have access to countless expert witnesses and consultants, jury consultants and private investigators. Our partners and senior litigators routinely review cases with our trial attorneys and with each other. We also consider the client and the client's family part of the team.
Am I getting a guarantee?
Unfortunately, some attorneys will tell you what you want to hear in order to get your money. We often hear statements like, "my attorney promised me no jail" or "he told me he was the best trial attorney in Michigan" or even "he told me he could beat this case." We believe in straight talk with our clients. While we beat cases routinely, get “no jail” sentences, avoid the sex offender registry, and get serious felony charges reduced to misdemeanors, making promises like these in an early consultation is unethical. Many of our clients have very serious and difficult cases. We will not shy away from a difficult case. We believe in fighting hard for clients. You deserve the best representation possible. If you hire an attorney that promises what will happen in your case, you are probably hiring the wrong attorney.
When can I get a consultation?
Kronzek & Cronkright has attorneys readily available to take your calls during business hours. We have attorneys on standby evenings and weekends for after hour consultations. And, we have attorneys on call 24/7 for emergency situations.