No matter what the charge, a guilty finding in a criminal court case comes with severe potential consequences, including stiff fines, loss of rights such as driving privileges, and loss of freedom through either a jail or prison sentence. And this is true whether facing felony or misdemeanor charges, especially in the state of Mississippi, which has been ranked by the Pew Charitable Trusts as the having the country's most punitive criminal justice system.
It is crucial that persons arrested and charged with a criminal offense hire a knowledgeable attorney—such as William Wayne Housley, Attorney at Law—who can determine the most appropriate criminal defense strategies for securing a positive outcome for the defendant.
Persons facing criminal charges should secure a defense attorney as quickly as possible in order to ensure adequate time to develop a solid defense and to maximize defense strategy options and/or ensure adequate time to develop a solid defense. In strategizing for a new case a criminal defense attorney needs plenty of time to carefully examine possible defense attorney tactics and consider:
- The nature and seriousness of the charges
- The prosecution's evidence
- The defendant's version of his or her role in the alleged crime(s)
- Potential evidence available for the defense
- Potential witness testimony
- The disposition of law enforcement, prosecutor, judge, and potential jury with regard to the crime
The Plea Bargain
Once these circumstances have been considered, the defense attorney will generally consult with the defendant on whether to seek a plea bargain or not, as the plea bargain represents the most common tactic utilized in criminal defense strategies. In fact, the vast majority of criminal cases nationwide are resolved through plea bargains and their resultant guilty pleas.
In a plea bargain the defendant agrees to forgo trial by pleading guilty in exchange for a reduced charge and/or lighter penalties. Plea bargaining in Mississippi can take place at any point up to and on the day of the trial, though earlier plea negotiations can often result in more favorable results for the defendant.
In lieu of plea bargaining, whether due to a defendant's innocence or other situational factors, a criminal defense attorney will plan a defense based on the court's requirements for securing a conviction and on protecting the defendant's Constitutional rights.
“Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”
In Mississippi, as in other states, criminal conviction is dependent upon the prosecutor being able to establish a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest standard of proof that must be met in any trial, surpassing the “preponderance of evidence” requirement of most civil trials. This means a judge can have no doubts about guilt if convicting a defendant, or, in a jury trial, that all jurors unanimously agree on a defendant's guilt.
Thus, in planning a defense strategy a criminal defense attorney is always examining means of disputing the prosecution's evidence and narrative of the case so that reasonable doubt can be raised about the defendant's alleged guilt.
Two types of criminal defenses, if feasible, are by proving the absence of the defendant at the scene of the crime, or by showing that another person could have committed, or otherwise been responsible for, the offense. Absent this, the criminal defense strategies will rely on examining and questioning every facet of the prosecution's case for relevance, veracity and connection to the defendant.
Other Types of Criminal Defense Strategies
Extenuating circumstances often play a role in criminal activity and sometimes serve as the basis for negating or narrowing the unlawfulness of the alleged criminal action. These criminal defenses rely on the rubric that either “no crime actually occurred” or that the criminal actions “were justified:”
No Crime Actually Occurred
- Defense of consent (often used in rape charges)—arguing no crime occurred because the alleged victim consented to the act
- Defense of abandonment/withdrawal—in which defendant agrees that he or she intended to commit the alleged crime, but then had a change of heart and did not participate in the crime
- Entrapment—In which the defendant argues that government inducement caused the crime, and that no crime would have occurred without the government's involvement
The Criminal Actions Were Justified
- Defense of self
- Coming to the defense of others
- Defense of duress—in which the defendant committed the crime because he or she was forced to by someone else
- Necessity defense—in which the defendant committed the crime in order to prevent more significant harm
While rarely used in Mississippi court cases, criminal defense strategies can also try to convince the judge and jury that the defendant cannot be found guilty of the crime because he or she did not understand what he or she was doing, or that the criminal activity was wrong. Such strategies include:
Protecting the Defendant's Constitutional Rights
Additionally, during the pursuit of criminal conviction against an alleged perpetrator, law enforcement officers, the prosecutor and the court must follow various procedures to protect the Constitutional rights of suspects. Failure to protect these rights can lead to the exclusion of evidence from the trial proceedings, which in turn can weaken or even nullify the prosecution's case against the defendant.
A competent attorney will be well versed in these rights, and ready to challenge the court on the defendant's behalf should any of them be abridged. The prosecution and court's adherence to these Constitutional rights should always be inherently present within the type of criminal defense being used.
With more than 20 years of experience, Mr. Housley is well versed in providing aggressive criminal defense strategies for adults and juveniles charged with felony and misdemeanor crimes. As no two cases are the same, Mr. Housley gives all of his clients personalized attention designed to secure the best possible outcome, and works tirelessly to protect his client's rights and help them retain their freedom.
To schedule a free consultation on your criminal case, call 662-346-2069, or fill out our online consultation form.