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What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do?

— August 27, 2021

Beyond asking ‘what does a criminal defense attorney do?’, you’re going to ask your lawyer a lot of other questions throughout the course of your case.

If you’ve been charged with a crime and you’re looking to hire a criminal defense attorney, it’s important to do it as quickly as possible. It’s also important to understand what a criminal defense attorney does. Learning more about their experience, responsibilities, and daily tasks can help you choose the right one for your circumstances. Here are some key questions and answers to help you discover what a criminal defense attorney does. 

What types of charges do criminal attorneys handle?

Criminal defense attorneys typically handle multiple categories of crimes at varying levels. For instance, a criminal defense attorney can defend those charged with misdemeanors or felonies. These crimes can range from disorderly conduct and trespassing to kidnapping or homicide. Most criminal defense attorneys are willing to take on cases involving serious charges or charges that they haven’t yet had the chance to defend. When searching for the right criminal defense lawyer, it’s always a good idea to ask if they have experience defending your specific charges. The more experience they have designing defense strategies for your particular crime, the better your chances are at achieving a positive outcome. 

What does a criminal lawyer do that I can’t do?

Unless you have a strong background in criminal law and you’ve previously worked as an attorney, it’s never recommended to handle your criminal case alone. It can be incredibly complicated to navigate the criminal justice system without experience. When the prosecutor has a powerful case against you, it can be very difficult to investigate your case, discover new evidence, or interview witnesses, especially if you’re incarcerated throughout the pretrial phase. A criminal defense lawyer brings a lot of benefits to the table and can lower your risk of severe penalties and punishments. In some cases, a good criminal defense attorney can even get your case dismissed. Remember that a criminal lawyer has years of higher education under their belt and they’ve been admitted to the bar, meaning that they’re allowed to practice law in their jurisdiction. Without these qualifications, it’s highly advised to work with a skilled criminal defense lawyer over representing yourself. 

What is a day like for a criminal defense attorney?

Lawyer having coffee while at laptop; image by Mateus Campos Felipe, via
Image by Mateus Campos Felipe, via

When people ask “what does a criminal defense attorney do?”, they often want to know what a typical day looks like for a defense lawyer. Criminal defense attorneys will frequently say that no two days are exactly the same. Each case is unique and they all require different daily tasks, so their days are typically full and change according to their caseload. For instance, a criminal defense lawyer’s day might start out at the local District courthouse. They might spend half the day negotiating with prosecutors, following up with police officers, discussing developments of a case with a client, or standing next to a defendant throughout an arraignment hearing. Their afternoon may require time in the office researching historic cases, reviewing new evidence, preparing for a trial, or returning phone calls to new potential clients. There’s no question that criminal defense lawyers do significant work and the justice system would be incomplete without them. 

What are the benefits of hiring a criminal defense lawyer? 

One of the most notable benefits of hiring a criminal defense attorney is that you’re lowering your risk of harsh penalties, such as jail time. When your freedom is on the line, you want to have the best possible representation. A criminal defense attorney also has your best interest in mind throughout every stage of the process. The criminal justice system can be complicated and intimidating, so having an experienced lawyer by your side makes a huge difference. Your lawyer can look into your case and see options that you didn’t know were there. They can conduct research and full investigations to find new evidence. They can design a powerful defense to sway a judge or jury in your favor. They can also negotiate on your behalf to create an acceptable plea deal with the prosecutor. Overall, a criminal defense attorney can provide peace of mind and offer support throughout a difficult legal obstacle. 

What questions should I ask a criminal lawyer?

Beyond asking ‘what does a criminal defense attorney do?’, you’re going to ask your lawyer a lot of other questions throughout the course of your case. However, at the initial consultation, there are a few key questions to ask. First, it’s important to ask them if they’ve ever tackled a case like yours in the past. This gives them an opportunity to share their experience and provide more information about possible defense plans. It’s also smart to ask about their success rate. There are lawyers out there with lots of experience but low success rates, and there are those with experience that have a long list of positive results. To make sure this is a lawyer you can afford, be sure to ask about the cost. You don’t want to be blindsided by unknown fees, so asking this upfront can give you an idea of what you’ll need to pay moving forward. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to ask if this will be the lawyer handling your case or if you’ll be passed around to associates. This can help you understand who to communicate with throughout each stage of the case and if you’re going to get what you pay for. 

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