How To Write A Client Questionnaire – Criminal Cases
No attorney relies on an initial in-person interview as the first means of encapsulating the relevant information related to a client. Before an attorney sits down with a client for the first time, a diligent attorney requires a client to complete some type of intake form or questionnaire. A completed new client questionnaire provides an attorney with a checklist and self-screening device designed to obtain, in a short amount of time, the information required to review a client for the ability to pay fees and the absence of any conflict of interest or other potential problematic attorney-client issues that may affect representation.
A well-drafted client interview questionnaire or intake form will help an attorney obtain the information necessary about a client’s matter to assess responsibility in criminal cases, as well as liability and damages in personal injury cases. It may also help an attorney understand how the client will act during the case, including how the client will be perceived by a judge or jury. Attorneys who separate administrative and discretionary screening functions may help reduce oversight time and facilitate the consistent implementation of procedures for client intake.
Different versions of a client questionnaire should be used based on the type of case. For example, a questionnaire for a criminal case and a questionnaire for an auto accident case require different types of information and should contain vastly different questions. The information provided by clients in any type of questionnaire or intake form is confidential and protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Of course, any questionnaire begins with collecting basic personal information such as name, address, date of birth, marital status, and the identity of any family members. Other supplemental information such as occupation, employment status, employer’s address, and yearly salary are also relevant pieces of information.
A client’s immigration status is highly relevant since a criminal conviction may have the effect of removing the client from the United States. If the client is an immigrant and a criminal attorney is not well versed in immigration law, he or she should inform the client of this fact and recommend that the client seek advice from an immigration attorney before accepting any resolution of the criminal case at hand.
The questionnaire should make inquiries into other information related to housing, public benefits, driver’s license, student loans, military history, and even school expulsion, if applicable. If the current criminal charges with which the client is charged may result in the state taking property away from the client through a forfeiture action, the client should list all assets subject to forfeiture.
An intake questionnaire for a client who needs representation related to a criminal matter requires information about the current criminal charges filed against a client and the court where such charges were filed. An inquiry should also be made regarding any other criminal charges in any other courts, and whether are charges are for felonies. Information about whether a client has lost any parental rights as the result of currently filed charges or past convictions is also relevant and should be included on a client questionnaire for criminal matters.
An important, distinct section of any questionnaire for a criminal matter is the request for the client to list the details of his or her criminal record. This part of the questionnaire should ask whether the client has a record, the kind of prior convictions, their date, and the type of offenses that may affect the sentence for a conviction of the present charges. The form should inform the client that his or her criminal record may also affect the outcome of this case.
The client should list every conviction, the date of conviction, and the court in which he or she was convicted. The list of convictions should include convictions in other states, in the military, or in other countries, as well as any juvenile cases, noted as such.
The questionnaire should inform the client that expungement is available to defendants convicted of either California misdemeanors or felonies when the defendant has successfully completed probation for the offense, provided that the defendant either does not serve time in state prison for the offense.
Finally, an extensive, well-drafted client questionnaire for criminal matters should contain information related to those important things that clients must consider if convicted and sentenced to jail or prison. The important issues to consider include child custody, child support, identification, firearms, and voting rights.
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