What is a Criminal Defense Attorney and When do You Need One?

A criminal defense attorney represents individuals who are under investigation for criminal activity. They represent clients who might be witnesses in a criminal case. They also represent individuals charged with crimes.

If you or a family member has been arrested or is dealing with a criminal law matter, it is wise to consult a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The police officers, investigators, and prosecutors have one goal. They want a conviction.

Whether you are facing charges for drug crimes or manslaughter charges, the stakes are high. Depending on the outcome of our criminal case, you could go to jail, pay a large fine, be required to register as a sex offender, or face other criminal punishments. 

Instead of representing yourself and potentially placing yourself at risk for severe consequences of a guilty verdict, consider these five reasons to hire a criminal defense attorney.

Five Reasons You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney

criminal defense lawyer

You have the right to legal counsel during a criminal proceeding. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court can appoint a lawyer to represent you in the criminal case. If possible, it is best to hire a private criminal defense lawyer. Five reasons you should consider hiring a criminal defense attorney are:

Most individuals base their understanding of their legal rights on television shows and movies. These are not accurate sources of information. Movies and television shows often include false information, or they are biased toward law enforcement. 

Without an attorney to explain your legal rights, you do not know if your rights have been violated. A violation of your civil rights could result in our criminal case being dismissed. The violation could result in key evidence being inadmissible in court.

You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer to Investigate Your Case

Do you have the knowledge, skills, and resources to investigate your criminal case? Do you know how to track down witnesses, analyze evidence, and research criminal laws?

A criminal defense lawyer investigates the charges against you. He reviews the investigation and your arrest to determine if law enforcement officials violated your civil rights. Your lawyer looks for weaknesses in the state’s case that he can use for your benefit.

The prosecution is not going to give you information you do not know to request. It is also not going to tell you if the case against you is weak. A criminal defense lawyer evens the playing field for you and ensures you are treated fairly and according to the law.

You Need an Attorney During Interrogations and Investigations

Even if you have not been arrested yet, you can benefit from hiring a criminal defense lawyer. You have the right to remain silent, and you should exercise that right. Talking to the police without a lawyer present rarely benefits you.

It is not illegal for the police to lie to you during investigations and interrogations. You might not be in custody. If not, any information you voluntarily disclose could be used against you in court, even if you have not been read your Miranda Rights. 

Having an attorney present during questioning can prevent you from making incriminating statements. Your lawyer advises you whether to answer questions based on what is in your best interest, not what is in the state’s best interest.

A Lawyer May be Able to Negotiate a Better Plea Deal

Prosecutors know that defendants rarely have a thorough understanding of the charges against them or the potential punishments for a guilty verdict. The prosecutor is not required to inform you whether or not the plea deal is fair. Therefore, you cannot be sure you are receiving the best plea deal unless you have a criminal defense attorney handling your case.

Your criminal defense lawyer analyzes all evidence in your case. He researches the law to determine if the evidence proves that you committed the crime within a reasonable doubt. Your lawyer uses this information to negotiate the best plea agreement possible based on the facts of your case.

Prosecutors know which lawyers prefer to work out plea deals and which lawyers are willing to take cases to court. Make sure you hire a criminal defense lawyer who has a strong trial record. It can benefit you during plea negotiations. 

Your Criminal Case Might go to Trial

The court does not care if you waited until the last minute to hire a criminal defense attorney. It might schedule the trial regardless of whether your lawyer has time to prepare a defense.

Hiring a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible gives your attorney adequate time to investigate the case and prepare defense strategies. It gives your lawyer more time to gather evidence. Whenever possible, hire a criminal defense attorney before your arrest, or as quickly after an arrest as possible. 

Tips for Choosing a Criminal Defense Attorney

When choosing a criminal defense lawyer to handle your case, there are several things that you want to keep in mind. 

Experience 

You want to choose a criminal defense lawyer with substantial experience handling cases similar to your case. For example, if you are charged with statutory rape, make sure that the lawyer has specific experience with statutory rape cases and not just general sex crimes. Likewise, if you are charged with federal crimes, make sure that the lawyer practices in federal court. 

Fees and Costs

Discuss the attorneys’ fees and costs of the case. Most criminal lawyers require a retainer fee and bill by the hour. You are expected to reimburse the lawyer for any costs of the case. 

Law Firm Resources

Some criminal cases are complicated and might require extensive resources to investigate the case and prepare a defense. Ask the lawyer about the law firm’s resources. Does the attorney have the time to devote to your case, and does the law firm have sufficient support staff to handle the workload?

Watch Out for Guarantees

If the attorney gives you a guarantee, you should get a second opinion. There are no guarantees. Even when a case appears to be easy to win, you cannot predict what a jury or a judge might decide at trial.

Instead, your criminal defense lawyer should explain your legal rights and potential defenses. He can give you an opinion based on the facts as he knows them and his experience and knowledge of criminal law. However, he should be clear that it is an opinion and not a guarantee of a particular outcome.

The Decision is Up to You

Facing criminal charges is a serious matter. However, you do not need to face the situation alone. You can get help, legal advice, and support. Give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome by consulting a criminal defense lawyer.