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Criminal Practice Handbook

Books dealing with criminal law and its practice are relatively common. Many such books are multi-volume sets totaling thousands of pages and costing hundreds of dollars. The result is they tend to be used more as references of last resort for those able to purchase them. Apparently tired of that state of affairs, Boston criminal defense lawyer Stephen Hrones and Salinas, California delinquency lawyer Catherine Czar set out to write a book defense lawyers could actually use in the real world.

The result is the "Criminal Practice Handbook," a concise 680 page powerhouse of information divided into sixteen well organized chapters. Designed for use by the beginning criminal law practioner and attorneys who do relatively little in the way of criminal defense work, the text is invaluable for pro se prisoner litigants representing themselves at trial or on appeal as well as the criminal defendant awaiting trial who is represented by counsel.

The book is designed to let the defense attorney know what he's supposed to be doing, and conversely, let the client know what is supposed to be done. Starting with a chapter on how to conduct client interviews, it moves smoothly into bail, arraignment and trial court practice; grand jury appearances; extensive sample pre-trial motions; jury issues; opening and closing statements; direct examination; the art of cross examination; trial tactics; sentencing issues; federal sentencing guidelines; direct appeal; habeas relief; specific problems arising from DUI, sexual assault and juvenile cases; case investigation and concludes with court appointed representation.

Each chapter is packed with case citations and sample motions. Logically organized and easy to use, each chapter has checklists, and even sample questions where relevant, to ensure the practioner leaves nothing undone. Not only does the book tell the advocate what to do, but of great importance for non lawyers, the authors explain the importance of why it should be done. The book is heavy on federal case citations but its focus is on general criminal defense advocacy rather than focused on a particular state. Thus, it is useful for anyone practicing law in state or federal court. While much of what the authors have to say may be old hat to the experienced criminal trial lawyer, the new practioner and pro se litigant will find it invaluable.

Unlike many lawbooks, the authors use plain English to make the book accessible and easy to understand for lawyer and non lawyer alike. You won't need a Latin dictionary to decipher the text.

Prisoners will probably find the chapters on direct appeals and post conviction relief the most useful. They focus on the tactics and strategy of how to argue a successful appeal and includes sample appeals, writs of certiorari to the U.S. supreme court and more.

Published in 1995 the book is updated annually with a supplement. The only drawback is the authors do not discuss the recent changes made to federal habeas corpus statutes by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. [See PLN, Aug. 1996]. Litigants interested in that area of law should not rely on this text.

The "Criminal Practice Handbook" is an excellent addition to the library of any criminal law practitioner. A must for any law library. Highly recommended. Cost is $95.00. Order from: Michie Company, P.O. Box 7587, Charlottesville, VA 22906-7587. 1-800562-1197.

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