When it comes to hiring professionals to do a job, few are as important as a criminal defense attorney. They have years of education behind them and have spent countless hours studying previous criminal cases. Most importantly, they have powers in court that could be beneficial to your case. Let’s take a look at what power a criminal defense attorney has so you can make the right decision when or if you need to hire one.
A criminal defense attorney is a lawyer that defends a party that has been charged with criminal activity. They can be privately hired by the defendant or appointed by the court (public defender). Private criminal defense attorneys typically work for a law firm or work for themselves. Public Defenders are government employees and work for the State of California. Although most criminal defense attorneys cover a large scope of criminal cases, you’ll want to find a lawyer that specializes in the type of crime you’re being charged with for a better chance of success.
When you retain a criminal defense attorney, you should know exactly what to expect from them. They are responsible for several things previous to the court dates, during the court sessions, and afterward in terms of appeals if you are convicted of a crime.
To start, they must use their investigative powers to gather all the facts on your case. This includes police interviews, witness interviews, lab follow-ups, and client conversations. In addition, they must study previous cases that are similar to yours to aid in building the case and making the best argument for acquittal. They need to know the penal codes and criminal procedural law that coincides with the charges as well. This then leads them to create a defense strategy that they can use in court to best defend you against the criminal charges you face.
Once they are in court, defense attorneys have several ways to influence the outcome of a trial. How much influence they have is determined by how powerful their argument is, how well they know the prosecutor, and how well their court strategy is planned and carried out. Their power doesn’t stop once the court trial is over.
They can continue to appeal a conviction on your behalf if the outcome is not what you wanted at trial.
Attorneys can negotiate with the prosecution in a couple of ways. They can try to work out a plea bargain where the penalties are lessened if you accept a guilty plea. This typically occurs before the trial happens, saving everyone time and money. You would discuss this option at length with your attorney before bringing it to the table with the prosecutor. The advantage would be a lesser penalty and expedited time in court, but the disadvantage would be the scar on your criminal record that you cannot appeal.
Another way an attorney can reduce a case is to petition to have the charges dropped, or the case dismissed. This would be possible if the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to prosecute you on one or all of the charges against you. An excellent and creative attorney will find a way to get the charges dropped so your record stays clean and you don’t have to deal with penalties; if the evidence allows for such.
The best news about getting a criminal defense attorney is that you will rarely serve the maximum sentence possible. They will almost always work to get your sentence reduced if the trial gets to the point of conviction. After a trial conviction, a criminal defense attorney continues to argue on your behalf in front of the judge to persuade him or her to sentence you to a lower penalty. The attorney does this through a series of legal arguments and presents mitigating evidence to the judge. Mitigating evidence is facts about you that make you a contributing member of society or reasons why you should not be sentenced to a high jail term.