Whether you’ve seen them portrayed in a gripping Hollywood blockbuster film or television show, the fictionalized depiction of a criminal defense attorney rarely matches reality.
The truth of the matter, though, is that when things go south there’s no one better than a criminal defense attorney to have by your side.
What’s the Definition of a Criminal Defense Attorney?
There may be a bit of a stigma surrounding the use of a criminal defense attorney. Some people wrongly think that only those guilty of a crime need a defense attorney.
In actuality, being charged with a crime is far from truly committing the crime.
Whether they’re court-appointed or are in private practice, the role of a criminal defense attorney is to defend someone accused of a crime. Their goal is to either have the charges dismissed altogether or reduced through negotiation.
If no deal is possible, then your defense attorney will represent you in a courtroom.
Others, though, choose to serve as generalists, and take on just about any type of case.
What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do?
There’s a lot of prep work that must be done in order for a criminal defense attorney to represent you in court.
Your criminal defense attorney will:
- Analyze all aspects of your case to determine the most effective strategy
- Advise you on likely outcomes
- Examine and interpret the strength (and weakness) of the evidence against you
- Negotiate on your behalf to have the charges against you either dismissed or significantly reduced
- Engage with and prepare expert witnesses who can potentially testify on your behalf, and
- Select jurors who are favorable to your situation if the case proceeds to the courtroom.
As you can see, there’s much more to formulating an effective defense than merely showing up in court. That’s why it’s vital that you contact one as soon as possible after being charged, whether you’re actually guilty of the offense or not.
When Do I Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?
To be blunt, if you’ve been charged with a crime, or even arrested, you need a criminal defense attorney.
Whether you realize it or not, the landscape of the justice system is a completely different environment than that to which you are accustomed. The legal system can be confusing even for those who work in it every day.
A criminal defense attorney, though, knows the intricacies of the system. In addition to guiding you throughout the entire process, your attorney will also be able to position you for the best possible outcome.
You can also benefit from the relationships already established between a qualified defense attorney and the prosecutors. Chances are likely they routinely come into contact, and have a relationship that makes negotiations on your behalf easier.
How Do I Select the Right Criminal Defense Attorney for Me?
This choice definitely requires a bit of homework on your part, but it’s worth the effort.
Make the wrong choice, and you’re risking the harshest of penalties. Get it right, and you could be home getting on with your life.
- Interview several defense attorneys. Make the time to meet with them face-to-face. Because this is someone with whom you should be able to completely open and honest. Pay attention to your comfort level with each candidate.
- Make sure they specialize in the right area. As mentioned earlier, there are many sub-genres in law – including defense. The defense attorney you select should have a proven record of success in representing people with charges similar to yours.
- Select someone who works in the right jurisdiction. As noted above, existing relationships between a defense attorney, prosecutor,s and the local judges can be invaluable. In layman’s terms, they “grease the wheels” in discussions about dismissal of charges or plea bargains.
- Go with someone who can immediately get started on your case. There’s an old – but accurate – legal saying that states, “Time that is lost leads to a case that’s also lost.” Again, the amount of prep work necessary to defend someone against criminal charges is staggering. The sooner work can begin defending your name, the more effective the case will be.
Keep in mind there are differences between attorneys and lawyers. While a lawyer can give legal advice, an attorney is someone who has successfully passed the bar exam and is able to represent you in a court of law.
When making your choice for the right defense attorney, pay attention to your gut instincts and refrain from making a decision on the spot in a lawyer’s office.
Instead, think things over at home before making the decision.