What does a Criminal Defense Attorney do?
So what does a criminal defense attorney actually do? Many people’s conceptions about the job of a defense attorney come from what they see in movies, TV and what they read in fiction-based novels.
How much of popular media’s depiction of criminal defense work is accurate? Well that all depends. Some media outlets do a good job of replicating some of the aspects of the profession, but what you often don’t see are the more “boring” or mundane aspects of the job. Do defense attorneys make brilliant speeches at the ends of trials during their closing arguments? Yes, some attorneys adopt a more bombastic style, but that’s a rarer occurrence than movies like to let on. The truth usually is that there is no closing statement because the case settles way before a trial comes close to occurring.
Criminal defense attorneys deal mostly with the prosecutor that will be trying a case. When a person is arrested by police, it is the area’s prosecutor that decides what charges will be filed against the criminal defendant, or whether that defendant will be charged at all in the first place. Most cases begin with some form an investigation of an allegation against criminal defendant wherein the authorities speak to witnesses and gather evidence. There are multiple directions a case can go after this preliminary investigation. The authorities can decide they need more time and continue to search for evidence or they can seek an indictment.
The initial step in a criminal investigation is often the most crucial. Most cases are made and broken at this stage. It is imperative to have adequate representation from the beginning. That’s where a criminal defense attorney’s duties kick in. Usually, a criminal defendant won’t know that they are under investigation until they are spoken to by police or actually indicted unless there was an arrest made shortly after a crime was alleged.
At this initial stage, not much information other than basic allegations will be made available to the accused which is to say that the criminal defendant may not know how much evidence there is or what witnesses may be saying. This is not to say all criminal defendants need to worry about what a witness might say or that there would be any wrongdoing or guilt assumed, just that a criminal defendant needs to be in the position to understand what is happening as they are unlikely to be the subject of a criminal investigation for no reason.
At this initial stage and throughout the criminal justice process, a criminal defendant needs guidance to know what they should and should not do. Going back to an earlier concept, most people’s knowledge of the criminal justice system is based on what they see on TV. After all, most people are aware that they should not be very talkative at any stage of this process. You may ask yourself why that is?
The simple answer is that everything you say will be scrutinized and if you happen to slightly alter your account of events in any way it may look like you are being misleading or dishonest. It could totally not be the case, people misspeak all the time and say things they do not intend or really mean, so how are you supposed to know what should be said versus what should not be? That’s were having a good attorney comes into play. The attorney is likely to tell you not to talk about the situation and all and will help you fully understand what needs to be said and done if and when you need to speak about the matter.
When would l need a Criminal Defense Attorney?
You will almost definitely know when you need a criminal defense attorney. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime you need an attorney. If police would like to speak to you about some incident, you most likely should speak to an attorney before answering any questions they may have.
The requirement of a criminal defense attorney does not stop at simple crimes. Do you have a business that is heavily regulated by the local or national government such as waste management or chemicals? If you are in a position of authority and have run afoul of certain regulations you may need to seek out a criminal attorney. Do you own a bar or establishment that serves alcohol? Are you keeping up with licensing requirements? If you are not sure, you likely need to speak with an attorney
Even if you haven’t been accused or arrested, be vigilant and discuss borderline situations with an attorney as soon as you possibly can. Whether it be a legal services clinic, the public defender, help hotline or a private criminal defense attorney, feel free to reach out to a criminal defense attorney if the need arises.
Signs you need to speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
- You have been arrested
- Police are requesting to speak with you about a criminal incident
- You had a criminal record at an early age and what to see if the conviction record is eligible for expungement (record clearing).
How do you choose a Criminal Defense Attorney?
The first thing you need to do is understand the process and determine your means. Often people ask a very crucial question about the ability to pay large amounts for an attorney. People wonder if they need to do this in order to secure successful results. Does the money you spend matter?
This is a complicated matter and depends on many factors including the severity of the charges and your ability to pay. After all, every person’s budget is not the same and all attorneys do not charge the same amounts for their services. However, the stakes of criminal charges often warrant the expense. If you have a major felony allegation on your hands it would only make sense to find the most experienced criminal defense attorney you can find. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a parking ticket, you may have more options available.
- Determine Your Needs
As mentioned above you need to determine what the stakes are. Felony charges come with possibly significant jail time. Misdemeanor charges can also result in jail time , so keep that in mind. Moreover, you will want to find a criminal defense attorney that has dealt with your type of situation before. You need to know what cases the attorney has taken and what the results they have obtained.
- Research Online
Start researching a few local attorneys to see which ones have the most experience in criminal defense. You should also takes steps to see what local criminal defense attorneys think about your selected attorney. Sites like martindale.com and avvo.com provide peer review resources as well as lawyer directories to help narrow your search.
- Check the State Bar Association’s Website for any Disciplinary History
Every state bar association has a disciplinary board that keeps track of all disciplinary actions taken against an attorney in their jurisdiction. These disciplinary actions stem from unethical acts taken by attorney such as misappropriating client funds or unethical practices during their practice of law. While it’s true that there are some attorneys that run afoul of the rules, most do not. You should free to look up the names of any attorneys that you are considering consulting with to see if and what disciplinary actions have been taken against them.
- Schedule an Appointment with a Criminal Defense Attorney
Finally, the easiest step, you need to make an appointment to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. If you have already been arrested you may need assistance in a search. You will get appointed a public defender in the meantime, which is not a problem. They will handle your case appropriately and can later be replaced by one of your choosing.
If you are free to search for an attorney or anticipate an imminent criminal issue, you need to conduct your search quickly. As was discussed earlier, the earlier you can have an attorney with you the better. The defense attorney will be able to explain the process and help you understand what can be a frightening and tense situation.