What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?


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A criminal defense lawyer fulfills many important roles during the course of a criminal case. He or she is is responsible for defending a person who is charged with a crime. He or she speaks on the clientís behalf.

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 defenderís 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 man themselves. Public defenders tend to be paid a lower salary than private lawyers and also tend to have a higher case load due to the referral process and the pay coming from individuals other than defendants. In some cases, a court may appoint a private lawyer to take a specific case.

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 about the case. This requires a careful and thorough questioning of the defendant.

Investigation into the Case

In addition to asking the criminal defendant pointed questions about the case, he or she must further 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. All of this information is used to try to build a strong defense for the case. If an expert witness is used in the case, the criminal defense lawyer may interview him or her about the testimony he or she may provide and the evidence that may be presented in case.

A criminal defense lawyer has the right to review the prosecutionís case before it is submitted to the jury. This allows him or her to find any holes in the case against the defendant and to try to find evidence that may refute the prosecutorís case, such as hiring an independent lab or expert to test evidence in the case.

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 examined the evidence to determine if there are any legal theories that work against the conviction of his or her client.

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 is 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.

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.

Plea Bargaining

A criminal defense lawyer is also responsible for talking about the status of the case and negotiating with the prosecutor 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 the possible punishment.

Trial Participation

A criminal defense lawyer fights for his or her client during the trial. He or she examines witnesses, cross-examines the stateís witnesses and tries to convince the jury that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden of proof.

Sentencing

If the criminal defendant is sentenced for the 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.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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