What Exactly Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do?
A criminal defense attorney is there to represent those accused of committing crimes. These can be misdemeanors or felonies. While the punishment ranges from a simple fine to life in prison or a death sentence, these specialized lawyers play a part in the process. In fact, the U.S. Constitution requires their presence within the courtroom, as it promises that all citizens charged with a crime will have legal representation. For those in need of legal representation, it is important to understand exactly what services these lawyers perform.
What Makes a Criminal Defense Attorney So Important?
There are those who think that they can understand the law well enough to represent themselves. Under the constitution, you have that right if you so choose to invoke it. Of course, you may not understand the laws as well as you think. In which case, self-representation can lead to severe consequences. You could find yourself having to pay fines or even serve jail sentences if you do not adequately represent yourself.
Criminal law is complex. Many minute details can get lost on even the most learned student. Each state has its own laws, each with their own unique definition and punishment for crimes committed. Since the majority of the laws broken are at the state level, these ones will take the most study.
Before the Trial Services
The job of a criminal defense attorney begins long before they step into the courtroom. When they are hired dictates exactly how much pre-trial work they are able to do. For example, some people choose to hire a lawyer as soon as the police begin investigating them. In this instance, the legal representative will be able to assist them during questioning by authorities. By being present, they keep their client from divulging incriminating information.
If you wait until the police charge you, you should get a lawyer. When you go before the judge to enter your plea, a good legal representative can negotiate the amount charged for bail lower or even have it waived altogether so that you may go home to await trial.
In addition to protecting you from incriminating yourself to the police and getting you out on bail, your lawyer is instrumental in all pre-trial hearings. Depending on the strength of the case before the court, your representative may be able to get charges dropped. In some cases, they may exclude evidence against you due to improper procedure. Because there has to be probable cause to arrest you, your criminal defense attorney may prove that the police did not have this cause.
Before the trial begins, your legal representative interviews potential witnesses, gathers evidence, and organizes the information in a way that offers you the best defense.
During Trial Services
When you go to trial, your criminal defense attorney is invaluable. They start by selecting a jury that they feel will vote in favor of your innocence. They continually work with you to develop the best defense strategy.
As the prosecution presents its case, your lawyer continually analyzes information and identifying strengths and weaknesses in your strategy. They also question witnesses and provide opening and closing statements to the court.
Should it be in your best interest, your lawyer can negotiate plea agreements, where you plead guilty to a lesser charge in return for a lighter sentence. Should you lose your case, your legal representative will work with you to navigate the appeals process.