How to deal with anxiety when facing criminal charges?

CPH Legal handles a large number of criminal cases, including first offenders in theft (shoplifting), common assault, possession of a dangerous drug cases, who wish todispose of the case by way of O.N.E. Bindover,as well as cases where the defendants are facing serious charges and wish to contest the case or plead guilty for a more lenient sentence. All of these clients share one common characteristic: they are feeling worried.

Especially for clients who have a clear record (no criminal record), who committed the offence out of impulsiveness or momentary greed, who have a good personal background: good academic background, long-term career, stable family life or even holding professional qualifications or working as a civil servant, they are worried that a criminal record might ruin their entire life, they might be fired and all of their hard work in life would go down the drain.

It is perfectly normal for a litigant in a criminal case to feel nervous and worried. For a criminal lawyer, going to the police station to bail out clients, or assisting in the charge procedure, attending Court, defending a client or putting forward a mitigation plea is practically daily routine. However, for clients client, every part of the criminal procedure is novel to them and bears significant weight which could have profound and long-lasting impact on their life.

Apart from instructingthe most suitable legal teamand safeguarding his or her own legal rights, it is equally important for defendants in criminal cases to adjust their mentality.

Why shouldn't you over worry for your criminal case?

As mentioned above, being worried is understandable and justified. An appropriate level of nervousness can motivate the litigant to actively learn and understand more about the procedure and proactively prepare the case with the legal team.

However, if you are feeling nervous all day long, such as searching for information or news related to your case all the time, attempting to analyse the case law on your own, considering countless possibilities, feeling frightened about the risk of losing your job, or being disqualified, is counterproductive. Feeling worried itself does not help the case, and it makes you feel depressed, which affects your academic and job performance and worsens your relationship with your family.

How to adjust your mindset to be less worried?

American writer Dale Carnegie proposed in his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” that you could do the follows:

  1. Focused on today. Although we should all plan ahead in life, we should not regret or worry too much about yesterday and tomorrow. Live in today, and focus on what you can do today (for example, study hard, work work, spend time with families and friends, and even communicate with your lawyer etc.), and try your best to do better in these things.
  2. Understand the worst situation and be mentally prepared for the worst scenario, such as having a criminal record, a short-term imprisonment, losing your job, disqualification, being unable to migrate to another country, etc.
  3. Mentally accept the worst outcome first. This is as bad as things could get. Even if you would get a criminal record, it does not necessarily affect your career as badly as you might think. Even if it does, there can be a fresh start if you work hard and find other career opportunities. Even if imprisonment is expected, a fresh start will begin on the day that you are released from jail and you could work hard and start afresh from there.
  4. After accepting the worst outcome,calmlyimprove the worst result, such as actively work with your lawyer, collect favourable evidence, prepare the case according to your lawyer’s advice etc., in order to minimise the possibility of the worst outcome coming true.
  5. Remind yourself that over-worrying does no good as “worrying” itself does not improve anything. Focus on today. Carpe diem!

We face countless uncertainties throughout our lives, be they criminal cases, pressure from examination and job, financial difficulties, disputes with family, diseases, and other unfortunate events.

We regret over the unsatisfactory past and worry about the uncertain future. It is unavoidable and understandable.

However, the best solution in life is to remind ourselves not to over-worry. Seize the day and live in the present.

Although this is easier said than done, it's so important that we should endeavour to be able to do just that, as it has a profound impact on our quality of life, if we set out to live a happy and productive life.