When you think of the word lawyer, you often think about the trial process where the attorneys stand before the judge and the jury and plead the case of their clients. And while this is a vital part of a criminal defense attorney’s job, it is by far not the only role he or she plays. There are several things that a criminal defense does long before you ever see the inside of a courtroom. And, the ability of the attorney to perform these other tasks will have a direct impact on how the case will play out in the courtroom.
Assessing the Case
The first thing that a criminal defense lawyer does is to begin researching the case. Depending on the size of the firm, information gathering can be done by the attorney themselves or by an investigator. This is the most important step for the development of an effective defense strategy During this phase of the legal process various documents relating to the case will be collected, interviews will be conducted and photographs of the crime scene will be taken and analyzed. After gathering all of the data, the attorney will begin to analyze the case and will begin to formulate a defense strategy.
In many cases the state’s attorney, also known as the prosecutor or district attorney, will contact the defense attorney in an effort to settle the case with a plea bargain before going to trial. A plea bargain allows the accused to accept a lesser charge in exchange for a guilty plea. The process is quick and usually results in a lower level of punishment for the accused and a guilty verdict for the prosecution. The defense attorney’s job here is to determine which path is more advantageous for their client. If they have substantial evidence that would make it difficult for a jury to convict you, they may recommend that you skip the plea bargain and go to trial. However, if the evidence is not as strong in favor of the defendant, then it may be better to accept the plea bargain and accept the lighter sentence. In some cases, the defense attorney will negotiate with the prosecutor for even better terms.
Trying the Case
If the case proceeds to trial, it is up to the defense attorney to present evidence that refutes the evidence provided by the prosecutor. It’s not necessary for a defense attorney to prove the innocence of their client, but to provide enough of an argument that there is a possibility that he or she didn’t commit the crime in question. The burden of proof falls on the state’s attorney.
If you have been charged with a crime, it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can in order to begin the legal process. While it can be an expensive proposition to hire a private criminal defense attorney, most offer free consultations, so make the call as soon as practical.