NACDL - Case-Based Tools

Case-Based Tools

The Resource Center's Case-Based Tools is a curated collection of the resources to assist NACDL Members in the pursuit of justice on behalf of their clients. These materials—including motions, research, and more—were contributed by NACDL Members which they used in cases.

Case-Based Tools contains practice documents on more than 50 topics, including forensics, white collar topics, and more. Only NACDL members may access Case-Based Tools. If you are not a member, join today.

Note: Documents in Case-Based Tools are meant as a guide. NACDL does not guarantee the research, legal authority, or quotes in these pleadings. They come from various jurisdictions and may contain law not applicable to your jurisdiction. Additionally, the controlling law may have changed since these documents were drafted and/or cases may have been reversed or overruled. You should therefore check to ensure the law you cite in any pleading is current. Finally, you should tailor these documents to the unique facts of your case.

Please consult the rules of your jurisdiction, including local rules, to determine the proper title of the filing, filing deadlines, required content and certificates, and proper methods of service.




"It is quite true that there is enough difficulty in appealing as it is; but if there is to be no appeal at all possible the system would be intolerable." -L.J. Bowen

Appellate work is time-consuming, complex, and meaningful both for our clients and for creating precedent. Find helpful resources on appeals here.

Bail & Bond

Over 75% of those detained in local jails have not been convicted of a crime, and those in pretrial detention face the loss of employment and housing; suffer disruptions in education, medical treatment, and medications; and experience serious damage to their family and community relationships.

Financial bond should be used as a last resort. In most cases, pretrial supervision and less onerous conditions can serve to ensure the accused’s appearance and public’s safety without the discriminatory and disparate impact of financial bond. Learn more for your bail & bond case-related issues here.

Child Abuse

Child abuse allegations have a significant and lasting impact on all parties involved: the accused, the alleged victims, families, and communities. These cases are emotional and complex, and can be very intimidating. These resources are meant to make this area less scary and more manageable.


The U.S. Supreme Court held in Pinkerton v. United States that a conspirator is criminally liable for the foreseeable substantive crimes of his co-conspirators in furtherance of the conspiracy, even if the conspirator himself played no part in the substantive offense and did not intend that it occur. Find case-based tools on conspiracy here.


"To competently represent a client charged with DUI you must learn the new techniques and current technologies unique to this area of criminal defense. DUI defense involves a complex combination of science and law that should not be initiated by those unwilling to treat the defense of this serious crime with the respect that it deserves."

-Stephen L. Jones, "To DUI or Not to DUI, That is the Question," The Champion (August 2006). 

Find case-based tools and more on DUI here.

Death Penalty

“The death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?"

― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption


Criminal discovery can be divided into two categories: (1) disclosure of so-called “exculpatory evidence” that is constitutionally required under the Supreme Court’s 1963 Brady opinion and (2) disclosure that is required by statute or court rule. Discovery allows you to build a fully-informed defense for your client. "Discover" resources for your case here.


This page contains materials and information related to professional conduct and ethical issues, including ineffective assistance of counsel and withdrawing or substituting counsel. Whether you need to know your duties to a client or you are raising an IAC claim in post-conviction, you have come to the right place.

Eyewitness Identifications

Eyewitness identification is known to be very unreliable. According to the Innocence Project, 70% of 354 DNA-based exonerations nationwide involved mistaken eyewitness identifications. This page contains case-based tools and guidelines for best practices in eyewitness identification.

False Confessions

According to the Innocence Project, many of the wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence in the United States have involved some sort of false confession. It is important to understand why someone would falsely confess and how to explain, and more importantly, defend your client in that situation. Find resources on false confessions here.

Federal Courts

Article III of the United States Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the federal government, and grants federal courts the power to handle cases or controversies arising under federal law. This page contains materials and information related to the federal court system.

Fifth Amendment

Miranda rights have become sensationalized in TV shows and movies, but what does "You have the right to remain silent" really mean when defending a criminal case? This page contains resources pertaining to the issue of the right to remain silent and the Fifth Amendment.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was enacted by Congress in 1978 to regulate the government’s conduct of intelligence surveillance inside the United States. FISA generally requires the government to seek warrants before monitoring Americans’ communications. However, it has seen several amendments and expansions since the tragedy of 9/11. In particularly, President Bush authorized the NSA to launch a warrantless wiretapping program in 2001, and Congress ratified and expanded that program in 2008. Find case-based tools on FISA here.

Forensic Science

Evidence is the crux of every criminal case, making forensic science one of the most (if not the most) critical elements of an investigation and defense. This page contains materials and information relating to a vareity of forensic science subtopics. As forensics continue to evolve, so will this collection. 

Fourth Amendment

NACDL strives to guarantee that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is excluded in a court of law, and we know that you want to do the same for your clients.

This page contains materials and information related to the Fourth Amendment, including some surveillance and digital forensics resources.

Habeas Corpus

"As the nation-state has monopolized habeas corpus … on balance we have far more people in prison, federal and state, than ever."

-Anthony Gregory

 At its heart, habeas corpus is meant to safeguard an individual's freedom. For our clients, habeas corpus is most often used as a post-conviction remedy. Find resources on habeas corpus here.


This page contains materials and information on the intersection between immigration law and criminal defense. It also provides a great list of external resources for general immigration law and advocacy.

Judicial Conduct

The ABA's Model Code of Judicial Conduct states:

An independent, fair and impartial judiciary is indispensable to our system of justice. The United States legal system is based upon the principle that an independent, impartial, and competent judiciary, composed of men and women of integrity, will interpret and apply the law that governs our society. Thus, the judiciary plays a central role in preserving the principles of justice and the rule of law. 

On this page, find materials and information on judicial conduct AND misconduct.


Juries are an essential component of any trial. This page contains materials and information related to juries, particularly jury instructions and voir dire.

Juvenile Justice

Juveniles are different from adults and should be treated as such. This also means representing a juvenile is different than representing an adult. This page contains resources related specifically to juvenile justice.

Mental Health

"When a client has a mental impairment, it is critical for counsel to understand the client and how the impairment affects the client’s ability to functionally participate in the legal proceedings."

-John Matthew Fabian, "How to Deal With Difficult Clients From a Mental Health Perspective," The Champion (June 2007).

Mental health and neuroscience can also be critical when building a criminal defense or considering what your client may be entitled to (or excluded from) under law. This page contains materials and information related to mental health.

National Security

"Effective counterterrorism is rooted in respect for human rights." -Human Rights First

Find case-based tools for National Security here.


Our report on "The Trial Penalty," released in 2018, found that over the last 50 years, defendants chose trial in less than three percent of state and federal criminal cases—compared to 30 years ago when 20 percent of those arrested chose trial. The remaining 97 percent of cases were resolved through plea deals.

There is ample evidence that federal criminal defendants are being coerced to plead guilty because the penalty for exercising their constitutional rights is simply too high to risk.

Find case-based tools and more information on pleas here.


This page contains materials and information related to policing, including interrogations, investigation tactics, procedure, and even a glossary of slang terms. 


Innocent people are convicted of crimes and spend years in prison while the real offender remains free.  Although it is exceedingly difficult to overcome a conviction, even for an innocent individual, convictions are being overturned and individuals are being exonerated with increasing frequency.  According to the Innocence Project, over 300 individuals have been exonerated based on DNA evidence, while thousands of other individuals have been exonerated without DNA evidence.   

Prison System

The daily count of prisoners in the United States has surpassed 2.2 million...If there was ever a time when the public consequences of confinement did not matter, that time is long gone. 

It is important to know how to advocate for the best prison for your client, but it is equally important to understand good time calculations, early release, and the extreme need for re-entry services. Find materials and information on the prison system here.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, "My job as a prosecutor is to do justice. And justice is served when a guilty man is convicted and an innocent man is not."

Prosecutorial overreaching and misconduct strips away the rights of the accused. When prosecutors’ ethical obligations are ignored and individuals’ rights are violated in order to secure a conviction, little can be done to rectify the wrongs inflicted upon the individuals involved and on the system itself. 

This page contains case-based tools and other resources on prosecutorial misconduct.


What do federal judges want to know at sentencing? How will the First Step Act be implemented? What does a successful memorandum requesting probation look like? 

Find these resources and more here.

Sex Offenses

Sex offenses, like child abuse, have a significant and lasting impact on all parties involved: the accused, the alleged victims, families, and communities. These cases are emotional and complex, and can be very intimidating. These resources are meant to make this area less scary and more manageable.

Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to counsel, which promises every person has a skilled, zealous advocate by their side when they stand accused of a crime. As Gideon recognized, defendants' procedural and substantive rights cannot be protected unless every person has an attorney with the resources, skills, and independence to advocate for them. The Sixth Amendment also guarantees the right to a public and speedy trial, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you. 

White Collar

This page contains materials and information related to the defense of white collar crime, as well as overcriminalization. NACDL has a wide variety of white collar resources available, not all housed here.

Wrongful Conviction

“Sometimes eyewitnesses make mistakes. Snitches tell lies. Confessions are coerced or fabricated. Racism trumps the truth. Lab tests are rigged. Defense lawyers sleep. Prosecutors lie.”

-Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer, Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make It Right

This page contains resources on wrongful conviction and innocence cases.