What Do You Look For in the Initial Intake Process?

As a criminal defense lawyer in Ocean City, I ask a lot of background information initially.  Sometimes that’s difficult because a person may come in and they have a goal, they want to say something or they have very specific questions that they want answered. And if that’s the case I will certainly deal with that first because it’s very important – clearly it’s very important to the client and until that has been resolved, we’re not going to have any constructive conversation.

Ideally, however, when a person first comes in I ask a lot of background questions because I want to hear about their age, I want to hear about their level of education. I want to know are you from here? Do you have family here? Who do you live with? I want to hear about their work experience or their level of education. I want to hear about their mental health, or any physical issues. Are you under the care of a doctor because a lot of that information can be really important.

Mental Health Issues

Sometimes it’s clear that maybe somebody is dealing with some mental health issues. If they have some cognitive functioning issues, then how they interacted with the police is going to be extremely different than somebody who didn’t have any issues with understanding what the police officer is saying. So, I like to get a lot of background information.

For example, I have met with clients before and pretty quickly was able to see that they had some mental health issues that had to do with a lot of anxiety. People who have served in the military and have some significant issues with PTSD and when you then read that they had some sort of aggressive interaction with the police officer or perhaps with just another person, you know, on the street or an extended, like their brother-in-law some sort of family member with that or a roommate.

It makes a lot more sense because you realize that you’re dealing with somebody who perhaps has defense mechanisms that are very heightened and what they perceive as dangerous is very unique to them because of something in their history or something from the mental health perspective that they are dealing with. They are not going to act and talk and interact with the police like another individual who doesn’t have those particular challenges. So, I like to get a lot of background information.

After Getting Background Information

After getting background information, I like to go through the charging document. I like to explain the elements of each charge, what the maximum penalties are, and I like to make sure they understand if that means that they have a right to a jury trial or not.

After this I also want to hear exactly from them, tell me what happened walk me through it from the very beginning all the way to the end. Which is important for a lot of reasons. One, because people want to know that you’re listening to them, so that helps establish trust and also because you’ve got to get the defendant’s perspective of what happened because it may be completely different than what you can read in a police report. So, I think it’s important to get the story from the very beginning.