If you have been arrested, charged with a crime or are under criminal investigation, you may be thinking of hiring a lawyer to defend you. Don’t know where to start? Having an understanding of what they do can take the fear out of picking up the phone or walking into a law firm for the first time.
The job of a criminal defense attorney is to be your advocate, which includes appearing with you in court. All defense lawyers are is responsible for:
- Protecting clients‘ constitutional rights. A good defense attorney will fight for the protection of his or her clients’ constitutional rights. Defense attorneys work tirelessly to ensure that their clients are treated fairly and humanely as they go through the criminal justice system.
- Building a case. This involves gathering evidence, examining the police report and evidence, studying the relevant law, interviewing witnesses and discussing the case with the client. These discussions are privileged and can’t be shared with others. A good defense attorney will not simply accept the prosecutor’s side of the story, but and will search for evidence that may aid you.
- Negotiation. Many criminal cases don’t make it to court because of plea agreements. When it appears that a conviction may be likely, the attorney can recommend and negotiate a plea agreement that may offer you a lighter sentence.
- Representing clients at trial. We’ve all seen the courtroom thrillers. The defense attorney begins with an opening statement that summarizes the case. He or she presents the case, calling witnesses as well as questioning the prosecution’s witnesses. Other aspects include jury selection, challenging the evidence presented by the prosecution and importantly, demonstrating that the evidence does not meet the standard of reasonable doubt.
These are just a few of the things your lawyer can do for you. It is important to learn about your rights and your options before talking to law enforcement agents or a prosecuting attorney.
Criminal defense attorneys aren’t focused on putting criminals back on the street. Their dogged determination to help their clients navigate the legal system and protect not only their rights, but the rights of all people, benefits us all.