Last Updated: August 5th, 2021 at 9:21 pm
Read Time: 9 Minutes
Legal matters can arise for all kinds of unforeseen and foreseen reasons. Car accidents, work injuries, and criminal charges... the list goes on. When you are unsure of your rights under the law, you may need a lawyer to help you. There are thousands of subspecialties of lawyers, but most fall into a few larger practice areas.
Knowing the difference will help you understand when you need a criminal defense attorney vs. a personal injury lawyer. Criminal defense attorneys defend those who have been accused of a crime such as burglary, homicide, assault, and more. By contrast, a personal injury attorney will handle cases that involve injury from auto accidents, slips & falls, medical malpractice, dog bites and animal attacks, and more. But more than this, they each have a very different set of responsibilities.
What Is a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
You may have heard the term “criminal defense lawyer” before, but do you really know what a criminal defense lawyer does? There are so many types of lawyers out there that keeping track of their different responsibilities can be a challenge.
At the most basic level, a criminal defense lawyer is an attorney that defends individuals who have been charged with a crime and represents them in court. The defendant – the individual accused of or charged with the crime – can either hire their own defense attorney or use a court-appointed attorney to plead their case.
As with other areas of the law, some defense attorneys are generalists who take on any criminal court case, while others have chosen to specialize. For instance, some defense attorneys specialize in homicide or assault cases only.
What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do?
Criminal lawyers have many responsibilities that take place in and out of court as well as before and during a trial, should the case go to trial. Below is a general outline of the responsibilities of a criminal defense lawyer.
Types of Cases Criminal Defense Attorneys Handle
Interview Client about the Case
The first thing a criminal defense lawyer will do is interview the client about their case. This is usually an in-person interview.
During the interview, the defense attorney will ask their client questions to get valuable information that they can then use to develop a defense. During this interview, it is essential that the client and attorney create trust. This begins by the defendant answering all their attorney’s questions as truthfully as they can. If a defense attorney receives misleading or inaccurate information from their client, they will have a hard time crafting a thorough defense for them.
Investigate Their Client's Case
Once a defense attorney takes a case, they will begin the process of investigation. When researching the case, the client interview is just the beginning. The criminal defense lawyer will execute an in-depth and extensive investigation of their client’s case. They interview witnesses, police officers, and experts to gather information. They may also conduct criminal depositions if needed.
In addition, the defense attorney will review the prosecution’s case against their client. The prosecution is required by law to submit their case to the defense attorney prior to the trial. This allows them to build a case against their accusations.
Examine the Evidence
After collecting the police and witness statements, defense attorneys examine the evidence. They thoroughly review the evidence and try to determine the effect it will have on the perceptions of the jurors and the outcome of the trial.
They may have the evidence in a case tested by an independent expert witness or entity to find out if it can help or hurt the case. Using the evidence and the information found during the investigation, the attorney will prepare for trial by developing a strategy and defense for the case.
Plea Bargaining Negotiations
In some cases, the prosecution will offer defendants a reduced or lighter sentence if they cooperate with the prosecution or admit guilt. For instance, suppose a defendant has essential information about other defendants in their case, or another case altogether. That information may be considered valuable enough to offer a lenient sentence.
If a plea bargain is offered, it is the defense attorney’s responsibility to communicate the offer to their client and to give advice about whether or not to accept it. They also work to negotiate the best deal for their client. Plea bargain deals can result in a combination of smaller fines, less prison time, and a reduced sentence.
Prepare for Trial
If your case goes to trial, your defense attorney will prepare for trial by developing a strategy and possible defenses. They will analyze the collected facts of the case and craft a defense that answers all doubts the prosecution will possibly raise at trial.
Defense attorneys play a significant role in the jury selection process. They interview prospective jurors to find out if they may have any biases against their client. This process is vital to the trial's outcome. By working to choose the desired jurors, the defense can increase the chances the trial will have a successful outcome.
Representatives in Court
When the trial begins, defense attorneys are representatives for their clients in court. This means arguing on their behalf and being their legal voice in the courtroom. They hear the testimony of witnesses, cross-examine witnesses and experts, and speak to jurors. They formulate questions that can help convince the jury of their client’s innocence.
Handle Sentencing If Convicted
Should the case result in a guilty verdict, the criminal defense lawyer can represent their client during the sentencing hearing. Defense attorneys speak to the judge and do everything they can to reduce the harshness of the sentence. This is important since having representation at the sentencing hearing is the defendant's best chance of getting a reduced sentence.
When Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?
In general, it is recommended that you hire a criminal defense lawyer whenever you are charged with a crime, no matter how minor it seems at the time. Misdemeanors, and felonies alike, can result in severe punishments such as exorbitant fines and lengthy prison sentences, or both. You should take every precaution you can to avoid them at any cost. In some cases, you may also want to use the services of a defense attorney when being questioned by the police.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will know the ins and outs of defending you in court and is your best chance of a successful outcome. Whether you are charged with drug possession, criminal traffic offenses, manslaughter, assault, or any other crime, we can help you.
What Is a Personal Injury Attorney?
Just as a criminal defense lawyer represents their clients in court, so do personal injury lawyers for their clients. If you’ve been involved in an accident that resulted in injury or loss of property, you have the right to fair compensation for your injuries. A personal injury lawyer is the type of lawyer you need to call if you want the best possible settlement for your case.
You may not realize everything a personal injury lawyer does to help win a case. They provide legal representation when their client has been injured in an accident. Their number one goal is getting the best compensation possible for the victims of an accident.
This is just an overview, as the tasks are more complex than described above. It’s important to know what a personal injury attorney does, as well as why and when it would be beneficial to hire one.
What Do Personal Injury Attorneys Do?
The specifics of what a personal injury attorney does depends on the specialty area, the details of each case, and the stage of the case being worked on. However, there are some things a lawyer does in all or most cases.
Types of Cases Personal Injury Lawyers Handle
Investigate Personal Injury Claims
A personal injury attorney works on a contingency basis, which means that they don’t get paid until the case is settled and their payment depends on the amount of the settlement. They often put themselves at risk by financing the cases they work on. For this reason, a personal injury attorney will thoroughly investigate a case before they take it on, and if they think the case cannot be won, they often don’t accept it.
As with any claim or case that is to be disputed, gathering evidence is a crucial step in the process. A personal injury attorney will request documents from their client and procure the incident and police reports. They will also track down any witnesses on record and take their statements.
Negotiate with Insurance Companies
In order to make sure their clients get the best possible settlement, a personal injury attorney negotiates with insurance companies to get the maximum amount of compensation available. They also communicate directly with the insurance companies and prevent their clients from agreeing to anything that may hurt their claim.
Once they’ve investigated their client’s claim, the attorney may send a demand letter to the insurance company. These letters demand a specific amount for the injured party.
If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement to the injured party, their personal injury lawyer will most likely prepare a complaint against the insurance company.
Just like criminal cases, a personal injury lawyer may send interrogatories to the opposing party, asking for specific pieces of information.
Representation at Trial
If a settlement can’t be negotiated between their client and the insurance company, a personal injury will represent their client in court. They are familiar with the procedure and customs of the court and have a better chance of winning their client a higher settlement than their client would have on their own.
Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
As you can see, there are many ways hiring a personal injury attorney is beneficial. The most important one being that they will ensure that you get the best possible settlement for your case. In general, claims that are not handled by a personal injury attorney are settled for lower amounts than when the injured person has a lawyer to advocate for them.
Choosing the Right Attorney for Your Case
While their responsibilities are very different, the benefit of hiring a criminal defense attorney or a personal injury lawyer is clear: a better outcome for your case. Whether you need representation in a criminal or personal injury case, we can help.
For those seeking to file a claim following an accident, contact our experienced personal injury lawyer in South Florida at 888-626-1108 today