Criminal defense lawyers represent a complex and multifaceted area of criminal law. If you face criminal charges, a criminal lawyer has to work in your defense. A criminal lawyer reduces your legal penalties to the best of their abilities.
A criminal defense lawyer’s ability will depend on the court experience they’ve built throughout their career. Each criminal lawyer you consult with can speak about the different cases they have worked on.
Criminal Defense Lawyer
Through these free consultations, it will become clear that criminal defense lawyers have varying talents and specialties. Before you begin meeting with criminal defense lawyers, it will be best to understand how criminal defense attorneys differ. As you will see, the specifics of your case and the attorney’s experience will be key factors in determining whether they are the right fit for your criminal case.
What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?
A criminal defense lawyer fulfills many important roles during the course of a criminal case. He or she is responsible for defending a person who is charged with a crime. He or she speaks on the client’s behalf.
. Investigation Into the Case
A criminal defense lawyer must investigate the case to determine any possible avenues of acquitting the defendant. This often includes questioning police about the procedures that they used in conjunction with the case. It may also include talking to witnesses who have information about the case and collecting information about the case.
. Assignment of the Case
A criminal defense lawyer may be contacted directly by the defendant or may be assigned the case by the court. Many criminal defense lawyers are public defenders who are paid by the public defender’s office. They are appointed cases by local, state, or federal courts. Other criminal defense lawyers are hired by private firms. Some criminal defense lawyers have an independent legal office that they manage themselves.
If a criminal defendant is sentenced for a crime either because he or she accepted a plea bargain or was convicted by the judge or jury, a criminal defense lawyer can represent the defendant during the sentencing phase. He or she may discuss factors that can help convince the judge or jury to limit the amount of time that the defendant serves and to discuss possible alternatives to incarceration.
. Continued Contact with the Client
A criminal defense lawyer must stay in contact with his or her client to explain any developments in the case and to keep him or her informed about the case. The lawyer must ensure that conversations with the client are kept confidential. The lawyer must also ensure that he or she communicates information about the case to the client so that he or she has a better understanding of the possible consequences.
. Interview about the Case
Once the criminal defense lawyer has the opportunity to meet personally with the client, he or she should try to get as many details about the case as possible. By asking specific questions about the case, he or she can learn about possible defenses and strengths and weaknesses of the case. This requires a careful and thorough questioning of the defendant.
. Negotiate With Prosecutors
A defense lawyer may negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf. Criminal cases in Minnesota are resolved through plea bargains before they ever reach trial. In a plea bargain, you would plead guilty, usually to lesser charges, in exchange for more lenient sentencing or to have related charges dismissed.
A plea bargain can mean the difference between sentencing for misdemeanor and felony offenses. It can result in a sentence reduction or the elimination of some of the charges you were facing.
. Jury Selection
A criminal defense lawyer assists with the jury selection process. He or she may try to have jurors removed for cause if they may be biased against the defendant or even if he or she simply has a bad feeling about a potential juror.
. Analysis of Evidence
Analyzing the evidence against a criminal defendant requires the criminal defense lawyer to carefully study the facts and theories of the case. He or she may have evidence independently tested. Additionally, he or she may examine the evidence to determine if there are legal theories that work against the conviction of his or her client.
. Trial Participation
A criminal defense lawyer fights for his or her client during trial. He or she examines witnesses, cross-examines the state’s witnesses, and tries to convince the jury that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden of proof.
. Plea Bargaining
A criminal defense lawyer is also responsible for talking about the status of the case and negotiating with the persecutor regarding any particular plea bargain. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to help secure a favorable deal for the defendant that results in a reduction of charges or possible punishment.
Reasons To Be a Criminal Defense Attorney
There are many personal and professional benefits you can gain from working as a criminal defense lawyer. Here are some of the reasons that you may consider pursuing this career path:
. Improving People’s Lives
Being a criminal defense lawyer provides you with the opportunity to make a tangible improvement in the lives of your clients. Your work as a criminal defense lawyer can make the difference between an innocent person getting justice and receiving a wrongful conviction.
As a criminal defense lawyer, you may assist non-violent offenders with negotiating alternative sentencing like community service instead of jail time, encouraging them to improve their circumstances.
Helping clients get the best outcome for their criminal charges by providing legal advice and counsel gives them the chance to make better choices for their future.
. Upholding Your Clients’ Rights
Having the opportunity to protect someone’s personal liberties and rights can provide you with immense personal satisfaction. Under the United States Constitution, every citizen has the right to legal representation and a fair trial. As a criminal defense lawyer, you can advocate for your clients and allow them to defend themselves against any accusations or charges. You can be proud knowing that you help people understand the law, promoting fairness and equality in the court by presenting each case in an unbiased manner.
. Advanced Research Opportunities
Arguing a criminal defense case often involves doing in-depth research on other cases and reviewing detailed information about evidence, testimonies, and alibis. People who enjoy researching advanced subjects may appreciate the complex topics that they learn about when working on criminal defense cases. You can enhance your perspective and understanding of the law with each criminal case you accept.
. Earning A High Salary
Although there are many reasons to be a criminal defense lawyer that relate to your job satisfaction and long-term career goals, you can also enjoy the benefit of a high salary. The national average salary for lawyers is $89,658 per year. You can increase your earning potential as you gain experience and demonstrate your ability to win cases and achieve positive outcomes for clients.
. Gaining Job Security
Because everyone has the legal right to a lawyer when the government charges them with a crime, being a public defender is typically a secure path. Criminal defense lawyers can take private cases, or they can work as court-appointed public defenders and represent people who can’t hire their own lawyers for a trial. As long as people receive criminal charges, you can expect a high demand for both types of criminal defense lawyers.
. Sharing Your Knowledge
Once you become a criminal defense lawyer, you have the chance to share your knowledge of the law and legal system with others. This can range from completing pro bono work to educating clients about their rights. You can use your position as a criminal defense lawyer to raise awareness about how people can advocate for themselves in legal situations and avoid getting into criminal trouble.
Distinctions Between Public and Private Criminal Defense
Generally, criminal law is divided between district lawyers, prosecutors, and criminal defense lawyers. Criminal defense lawyers are further divided into the following categories:
. Public Criminal Defenders
All United States citizens have the right to legal representation. When a defendant is charged with a criminal offense and cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one. Suppose you have been accused of an assault but cannot afford to pay for your legal defense. In that case, the judge presides over your cases for state-appointed agencies.
. Private Criminal Defenders
Defendants who can afford to pay for their legal services generally turn to lawyers in the private sector. These are criminal defense lawyers who are self-employed or work for a law firm. Many private attorneys focus on specific areas of law. For example, if you are accused of embezzlement, you should seek a criminal defense lawyer specializing in white-collar crimes. Alternatively, if you have been charged with a DUI, there is also a subsection of criminal lawyers that specialize in alcohol and drug crimes.
The Rights of a Defendant in a Criminal Case
Defendants have various rights, each established to ensure due process. In other words, these protections ensure that proper procedures are followed when determining whether someone is guilty of a crime and that their liberties are not unfairly restricted.
A few of the rights afforded defendants come from the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments and include:
. The Right to Be Free from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
Law enforcement officials cannot search a person or their property or take someone into custody without a warrant or probable cause.
. The Right to Remain Silent
Anyone accused of, arrested for, or on trial for a crime cannot be compelled to make any statements against themselves, preventing them from saying anything that could be self-incriminating. Exercising this right should not be misconstrued as the defendant hiding something or indirectly admitting guilt.
. The Right to Confront Witnesses
The defendant can cross-examine witnesses, allowing the trier of fact the opportunity to hear the testimony directly and judge for themselves the credibility of the witness and the believability of the statements. The right also prevents hearsay (outside statements made by someone not testifying in court) from being presented at trial unless exceptions exist.
. The Right to A Public Trial
This protection ensures that the defendant’s proceedings are fair, as community members can witness the process. It also prevents misconduct from occurring that would unfairly lead to a conviction.
. The Right to Be Heard by An Impartial Jury
Members of the county where the case is tried hear evidence presented by both the prosecutor and defense counsel to determine the verdict. Jurors are supposed to be unbiased and base their decisions only on what is introduced at trial. This right creates fairness by allowing the outcome to be determined by the community rather than one person who may act according to the commands of a higher authority.
. The Right to Counsel
Persons accused of crimes can choose to have an attorney represent them. This right facilitates more efficient and effective navigation of the criminal justice system, as the defendant might not have the skills or knowledge to develop and present arguments.
Not all defense lawyers are the same. Some specialize in certain types of criminal law and cases, while others may not have any specialty at all. Working with them can be one of the most important decisions you make if you or a loved one is accused of committing a crime. Taking your case to court is the most common way to deal with one, and a lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. If you are charged with a crime, you could benefit from the help of a criminal defense attorney.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions:
Do I Need a Private Criminal Defense Lawyer?
If you do not hire a private criminal defense lawyer, the court can appoint one for you. While public defenders may be highly qualified to defend you in court, they are usually overwhelmed with sizable caseloads.
When Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
While you can represent yourself in a criminal case, it can be nearly impossible to achieve the desired results on your own. Since you may be facing a serious punishment, avoiding professional assistance could be an irreversible mistake.
You need a criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with:
. Misdemeanors: Petty theft, trespassing, disorderly conduct, domestic violence, DUI, etc.
. Felony: Rape, murder, third-time DWI, drug possession, kidnapping, robbery, fraud, etc.
Even if you are innocent and the case seems straightforward, relying on your efforts could be a mistake. A criminal attorney knows the ins and outs of criminal cases and how to choose the best line of defense.