Law Office of
Rhett Braniff

The Law Office of Rhett Braniff resolved a case we’ve been working on for over a year. The charges were aggravated assault, and from the beginning, we felt our client was not guilty because he was justified in using force to defend himself and others. 

Our client was a young man with no violent criminal history, and only one prior arrest for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He is a good man, with a strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility, compassion and community. 

On the day of the incident, he was at his job and was violently attacked by a complete stranger. This man was trespassing on the property, was aggressive and cussing at everyone, failed to identify himself, and refused to tell anyone why he was on the property. Our client told him to leave. He refused. After being asked to leave multiple times, he attacked our client, punching him multiple times in the face and head. Our client was much smaller than his attacker, he was caught off guard, and received no help from any of the individuals standing around. After being attacked, he saw the man get up and move toward another person. Fearful he was going to attack him, too, he used the knee he had in his pocket to stab the attacker in the back of the leg. This was an attempt to immobilize him until police could arrive.

This case reminds me that, as a lawyer, I need to be aware of several things about each case. First I need to know my client. I need to understand what my client was thinking what my client was feeling, and what my client was perceiving. What were they feeling in the moment? Understanding the state of mind of your client, and the things that they perceived in the moment gives the lawyer a unique outlook on the case. Prosecutors can’t talk to those accused of a crime. They can only review the police notes on the case. They often form a very one-sided opinion. It is incumbent on the lawyer to convey to the prosecutors the rest of the story. I have to round out the narrative so that they are considering my client’s perceptions when evaluating the case. In order to effectively advocate for my client, I have to be in his head. Second, you have to know the law. Understanding the law applicable to your case is critical. Not just the offense charged, but possible defenses, enhancements, evidentiary issues, etc. If you don’t know what is going to happen at a trial, you can’t advise your client on plea bargains and whether to reject a deal. Third, you have to get to know the other parties involved in the case. Research the complaining witness, research the lay witnesses, do background searches on the police and expert witnesses.  You have to know what  the witnesses were seeing and feeling in the moment. What biases or prior experiences did they bring to table. If there’s a complaining witness, what was that person seeing or feeling in the moment? ust

Preparation, and a willingness to try in case when your client has asked you to, will allow you to  achieve great things for your client. In our case, the state wanted our client to plea to a felony charge. Since we thought he was justified, and because our client wanted us to, we rejected these offers and pushed for a jury trial. We felt confident that when a jury heard the State’s story, and heard our story that they would agree with us. We believed they would find that it was a valid use of self-defense. We could push for this result, because we  were not scared to go to trial. We were confident in our ability to present our case. Were we not we might have suggested he plea to a felony. Instead we were able to tell our client that we believed in him, believed in this case, and we were ready to fight. 

The state then dismissed the case. It’s a pretty wonderful thing when you can give your client the gift of peace. There is nothing better than telling a client that the anxiety and dread, the uncertainty about their future, their freedom, their family, their ability to make a living, etc. All of that fear is over.