What does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?


Authored by Carly Hart in Legal 
Published on 10-09-2009

What does a criminal defense lawyer do aside from appear in court? Much of what a criminal defense lawyer actually does for a client is done behind the scenes before he or she ever sets foot in a court room. Think of a criminal defense attorney as an advocate for a defendant. They are hired to protect rights and, above all else, obtain the best outcome possible in a criminal case regardless of whether or not they personally believe in a client’s guilt or innocence. As their client’s advocate, they will act as the liaison between the prosecution and the accused, relaying all plea deals that are offered. Based on their experience, they will advise their client whether to accept the plea offer or whether to proceed with mounting a defense.

A criminal defense lawyer knows the local customs

An experienced criminal defense lawyer has a professional relationship with prosecutors and is well aware of local customs with regards to typical fines, jail time or the ability to plea down with specific prosecutors. Working with prosecutors and judges on other cases on a frequent basis means that the attorney knows how similar cases typically resolve; therefore, they are equipped to give an honest assessment of a case and know whether or not a plea deal is worth taking or not. They will know a good plea deal or a bad plea deal when they see it and will advise their client accordingly. If he or she feels there’s room for bargaining, they will try to negotiate to obtain the best possible deal for their client.

What a criminal defense lawyer does to prepare a defense

Depending upon the case circumstances, a criminal defense attorney may also hire investigators or other professionals to investigate aspects of the case, contact and interview witnesses to obtain statements or locate and retain expert witnesses to testify on a defendant’s behalf at trial. The prosecution has an army of investigators and experts at their disposal and a seasoned attorney does also. He or she will be responsible for case management, which includes scheduling and conducting depositions, obtaining surveillance, and analyzing documents and other evidence obtained through discovery. He or she will perform legal research relative to the case to find laws or interpretations of laws that will support the defense of their client.

Contacting a criminal defense attorney upon or before arrest is best

Contacting a criminal defense lawyer upon arrest may yield a more favorable outcome in some instances because the attorney can assess the case quickly and hone in on an defense strategy right away, which may avert charges being filed against a defendant in some cases. If the defendant has information relative to the case, and it is in the client’s best interest to assist police with their investigation, a criminal defense lawyer will facilitate and attend any meetings with law enforcement. In some cases where jail time is inevitable, cooperating with the police may result in a lighter sentence. A good attorney will know when and what information to offer to police as a bargaining tool.

If a case is not plead out and makes it to trial, a criminal defense attorney will have a hand in jury selection. They will work hard to try to pack the jury with individuals whom he or she feels would side more with their client than the Prosecution. Once the trial begins, the attorney will object when necessary and work to minimize the damaging testimony of others. Court appearances, in reality, are only a small part of what a criminal defense lawyer on behalf of a client.


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