The Role of Family and Friends in a Criminal Case

Happy Friday everybody, good to see everybody again, and wanted to talk today about something that comes up from time to time when I’m representing somebody in a criminal case. And that is the very vital and often overlooked role that the criminal defendant’s family and friends play in this process. Now it’s true that when I’m representing an individual, the way that attorney-client privilege works is, generally speaking, I can only talk about the specifics of that case one-on-one with the client. And so I can’t have their family or their friends or their support system involved in each and every conversation simply because looking out for attorney-client privilege and confidential information, that sort of thing.

That said, I make it very clear and I think it’s important that anybody representing criminal defendants makes it very clear to the client that the family and the friends are going to play an integral role in the process. I explain to all of my clients that my role as the criminal lawyer is not and will never be to make decisions for them. I can’t do that. I won’t do that. That’s not my job. And that’s not what I’m looking to do. My role is simply to educate the client as to all of the potential outcomes, all of the evidence, all of the discovery, all the legal analysis that I can and to walk them through their options, and then to let them lead me down the path that they choose that is best for them. I certainly advise them what I think. I certainly advise them when I think a certain option is more beneficial than another, but at the end of the day, the client gets to make those decisions. Period. End of story.

When a client is making those decisions, it’s incredibly important that they’re making those decisions from a place of empowerment, from a place of stability, from an educated position. You don’t want them acting emotionally or rashly or from a place of fear, in as much as you can avoid it.

Now, I know that fear plays a big part in going through a criminal case, but to the extent that it’s possible, every decision that that client makes, you want coming from a place of strength and you want coming from a place of confidence, that they are making the decision knowing all the potential outcomes, knowing the risks, knowing the pros, knowing the cons, and they’re going down the path that is best for them, and that is their decision. So what helps to get them to that position of strength, that position of confidence is not only me providing the information, but it is also me arming their support system with sufficient information so that their support system can also stand behind them and lift them up and raise them up and say, “You’re making the right decision here.” And so the more people behind a criminal defendant that are encouraging them, that are supporting them, that are standing by them in these moments, the better they’re going to feel. And the more confident and better that a criminal defendant feels as they move forward in this process which is full of uncertainty and doubt, the better.

So the family, the friends, the support system, they play an integral role in that because they need to be there really every step of the way to show a criminal defendant, we’re here for you. We’ll help you. We’ll support you. We can do this. So that it can alleviate at least one bit, one little part of that stress and that fear. And it can allow the criminal defendant to know they’re making the right call. So friends, family members, they play a really, really crucial role in the process. Not only that, but when it comes to sentencing, especially on the federal side or even on the state side, when the sentence is uncertain, when a judge is weighing what sentence is appropriate for a given client, one of the things that they look at is the support system, because a judge has to consider, if I release this person into society, are they going to be productive members of society or are they going to revert to criminal activity?

And one of the things that as a lawyer, we can use to demonstrate to the judge that upon release, they’re going to be productive, is a strong and robust support system. They’ve got these people behind them that are rooting for them that are cheering them on, that will help keep them on the straight and narrow, that will provide support when they need it to keep this client moving forward productively. So again, clients have to have that support system to maximize their potential for success. So friends, family members, even other lawyers that represent the client in a different capacity, be it a family lawyer, a civil lawyer, a business lawyer, whatever, all of you are vitally important to somebody going through a criminal case.

So if you know anybody, or if you have somebody going through a situation like this, don’t be afraid to let that person know, “Look, I’m here for you, whatever you need.” If you need me to talk to your criminal lawyer, if you need me to come in and sit with you, if you need me to go to court with you and just hang out, just be there, don’t be afraid to do that because it really, really makes a world of difference. As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else, please let me know. I’m happy to answer any questions that you have. I look forward to seeing you all next Friday and hope you have a great week.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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