What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do?
The right to an attorney is one of the rights we have as U.S. citizens. It is granted by the 6th Amendment. The reason is simple. The state holds all the cards when they charge someone with a crime. They know the laws, the procedures, and the requirements to convict, and you don’t. Without representation, you’re in an unfair situation.
A criminal defense attorney is your representative when you’re facing crimes. They also know the laws, procedures, and requirements. They are required to act in your best interests, advise you, and defend you during this difficult time.
Working for Your Welfare
A criminal defense attorney is responsible for defending your rights and freedom under the law. They work to disprove or lessen the charges and punishments against those accused of crimes. How do they do this?
The first thing they’ll do is get your side of the story and investigate it. For any crime, the state has to prove certain things. If your lawyer can find counterevidence that disproves the state’s claims, it will help your case.
This evidence can be physical evidence, interviews with witnesses, interviews with expert witnesses, and many other sources. It all depends on the nature of your charges and the circumstances of your case.
Under the law, evidence must also be shared between the parties. Anything that the state has gathered must be revealed. Finding flaws in that evidence or how it was gathered is another part of their job.
Keeping You Safe
Your lawyer will have plenty of legal advice to keep you from further harm while your case is in process. That advice is meant to keep you safe from jeopardizing your defense. Sometimes, following their suggestions can be inconvenient, but it’s for your best interest.
They will also be present at things like bail hearings to try to lessen the burden you have before trial. Keeping you out of jail before your trial will make it easier for you to make arrangements for your life prior to trial should you need to go to jail or prison.
Another thing a criminal defense attorney does is explain the consequences of legal actions. What will happen if you plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest? What punishments are you likely facing based on the evidence? You need to know these things to make an informed decision.
Negotiating and Plea Deals
The primary thing a criminal defense attorney does for you is negotiate. Armed with their interpretation of events, bolstered by evidence, your lawyer will talk with the prosecution and see if the charges could be dismissed.
If they cannot be dismissed outright because of a false accusation, the prosecution may offer a plea deal. A plea deal is an offer to plead guilty to a lesser crime to free up the court’s time from a full trial. Your lawyer can tell you if this is in your best interest or not, based on the evidence and their experience.
Representing You in Trial
If your case must go to trial, your criminal defense attorney will speak on your behalf. They will build a defense and try to counter the prosecution’s arguments in front of the judge and jury. They will also help pick jurors, along with the prosecution, to create a fair group of your peers.
Finally, should you lose your case or have to accept a plea bargain, your criminal defense attorney will negotiate for a lighter sentence. For instance, in a DUI trial, they may push to send you to a diversion program for rehab and education instead of a jail sentence.
Must I Use a Criminal Defense Attorney?
No, but it is almost always in your best interest. The state is required to give you an attorney if you cannot afford one. This could be a public defender or a selection from a panel of local criminal defense attorneys.
However, you are allowed to represent yourself. This is called “pro se” representation, meaning “for oneself.” To be successful representing yourself, you need the skills of a criminal defense attorney.
Can you speak persuasively? Can you create a rapport with the jury to make them sympathetic to you? Do you know the laws surrounding your charges, evidence, and the criminal court system to raise an argument against the prosecution? If not, we strongly recommend hiring a criminal defense attorney.