What Is a Defense Attorney?
Individuals who are facing criminal charges in the criminal justice system have a right to offer a defense for the charges placed against them. Some people opt to represent themselves, especially if the charges are classified as misdemeanors. There are some other charges that are more serious than misdemeanors, including felonies. In those cases, seeking assistance from a defense attorney can help people facing criminal charges to learn about their charges and determine the best ways to answer to those charges. For people who are just entering the criminal justice system, understanding what a criminal defense attorney does might help them to choose the best criminal defense attorney for their needs.
A Comprehensive Knowledge of the Law
All attorneys have a specialty in which they practice. For criminal defense attorneys, the specialty is helping defendants answer to criminal charges. Within the criminal defense specialty, the attorney might choose to sub-specialize in an area. For example, a defense attorney might only handle cases involving drug charges, violent crimes, or sex charges. By specializing in very specific areas, the attorney usually has more opportunity to focus on the laws pertaining to that specialty.
A major job duty for a defense attorney is similar to that of an investigator. The defense attorney has to spend time going through evidence pertaining to the charges. They might call in outside help to investigate the incidents, according to FindLaw. In addition, the defense attorney might need to speak to witnesses, find expert witnesses, and gather additional evidence.
Guide the Defendant
There are multiple ways that a criminal case can be resolved. A defense attorney has to help the defendant decide how to proceed with one's defense. The defense attorney might negotiate with the prosecutor to determine if there is a plea deal that is suitable for the case. If the defendant doesn't want a plea deal or if one isn't possible, the defense attorney then has to develop the defense strategy for the defendant.
Present a Defense
When a plea deal isn't arranged, the case will likely go to trial. In that case, the defense attorney has to present the defendant's side of the story before the court and jury. Based on what happens then, the defendant can either be acquitted of the charges or convicted of the charges. During the trial, the defense attorney has to be familiar with the laws and statutes that apply to the case. This means not only knowing the wording of the law, but also how to interpret the law and know how it applies to the case at hand.
Appeal Decisions When Necessary
There are sometimes instances in which a conviction or sentence must be appealed. Defense attorneys handle this aspect of the criminal justice system. Appeals in criminal cases can be very complex, so in depth knowledge of the appeals process is helpful in those cases.
With the potential consequences a person faces because of a criminal conviction, it is easy to understand why a defense attorney is so important. Unlike lay people, defense attorneys have formal schooling and professional resources available that helps them to determine suitable defense strategies. Anyone who is facing criminal charges should contact an attorney who has experience handling similar cases.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
Additional Criminal Defense Articles
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- Miranda Rights: The Who, What, Where, When and Why
- Initial Consultation With a Criminal Defense Attorney or a Public Defender
- Infraction, Misdemeanor or Felony: What is the Difference?
- Murder vs. Manslaughter
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- Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
- Police Misconduct Leading to Wrongful Convictions
- How the False Testimony of Snitches Results in Wrongful Convictions
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- How Bad Lawyering Can Result in Wrongful Convictions
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- What Happens When You Face Out of State Criminal Charges?
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- The Truth About Perjury
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- When Does Discipline Become Abuse?
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- Defense Strategies in Criminal Cases
- Probable Cause to Arrest Someone
- Resisting Arrest
- The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine
- Criminal Law Basics
- Your Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination
- Search and Seizure Laws by State
- Criminal Statutes of Limitations: Time Limits for State Charges
- When Must The Police Read Me My Miranda Rights?
- What is a Plea Bargain?
- What is expungement?
- What is Assault?
- What are my rights when charged with a crime?
- What Is Bail?
- Does an Expunged Criminal Record Still Follow You?
- If I Am Arrested, Should I Hire An Attorney?
State Criminal Defense Articles
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota