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What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?

 
09/26/2019
Justin Weinstein

Last Updated: October 4th, 2019 at 7:19 pm
Read Time: 10 Minutes

Criminal defense lawyers play many important roles during the course of a criminal case. We represent people accused of and charged with crimes by advocating in their best interests throughout the entire representation. The types of crimes we defend range from misdemeanors to felonies and carry punishments ranging from community service or minor fines to several years and or life in prison.

Representation in criminal proceedings is essential for defendants charged with committing a crime. The right to representation was considered so important that it was added to the US constitution when the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791.

Why Are Criminal Defense Lawyers Important?

Criminal law is a complex mix of state and federal laws. Each specific state often determines its definitions and punishments for state crimes in what we know as, statutes. Most crimes are state crimes. Exceptions to this include inflicting injury on a federal employee and damaging federal property.

Despite the prevalence of television shows highlighting the criminal justice system, most people don’t have an in-depth understanding and knowledge of criminal law or how the criminal justice system works. However, ignorance of the law or failure to understand the criminal justice system is not an adequate defense and is not enough to keep someone from being found guilty.

Although individuals do have the right to represent themselves in a criminal trial, the consequences of inadequate legal representation are often catastrophic for that person.

Misdemeanors such as petty theft, DUI, reckless driving, driving on a suspended license, domestic battery, prostitution, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, simple assault, trespassing, vandalism, and other lesser crimes can often only incur a short jail sentence, fine, and/or in some circumstances a diversionary program.

While these offenses may seem minor, the impact they can leave on your ability to obtain employment or housing is real. You should always have a competent and qualified lawyer at your side.

Felonies such as aggravated assault and battery, robbery, burglary, arson, DUI's, fraud, kidnapping, murder, manslaughter, rape, drug-related crimes, and other more serious crimes can often incur harsh prison sentences. For this reason, it is crucial to have a lawyer who has spent their entire legal career dedicating themselves to learning the law and how to navigate the specifics of your case both effectively and efficiently.

Pre-Arrest and Pre-Trial Defense Lawyer Services

A criminal defense lawyer can help clients during the entire criminal justice process, from pre-arrest and pre-trial to sentencing if convicted. Here is a breakdown of the pre-trial services a criminal defense lawyer provides.

Pre-Arrest Services

Some defendants choose to hire a criminal defense lawyer during the investigation phase of a crime before they are charged. You might choose this option if you are a suspect and you have reason to think you will be charged soon.

At this point, we will meet with you and get as much information about the case as we can. This includes learning about what the police know, what you know, possibly what some witnesses know, and exploring any and all possible defenses based on the strengths and weaknesses of the information gathered.

Oftentimes, law enforcement agencies want to speak with you to gather information and further their investigation. However, while the detectives or officer's investigating the case may seem to be nice and on your side, they are not and anything you say to them can be used against you. It is extremely important to speak to a lawyer BEFORE you speak to any member of law enforcement. Sometimes, simply placing yourself at the scene of a crime or with a particular person can be the difference in you being charged with a crime or not.

In these instances, we can help devise a plan that will best suit your specific situation to ensure you are protected from the beginning. This means invoking your right to counsel immediately and if speaking with law enforcement is the right path, then we will pursue that. However, if it is in your best interests to not speak with the officers investigating a crime, we will invoke your right to remain silent as well. It is always wise to have representation when being investigated or looked at as a potential suspect. When the government is looking to speak with you, you should always be protected by a qualified and competent attorney with years of experience in criminal law.

Pre-Trial Services

Once arrested, there are several things a lawyer can do to to help your case move through the criminal justice system more smoothly and ensure you get the best result.

Bond Hearing and First Appearance

If arrested, a criminal defense lawyer can help you bond out at a lower rate. First Appearance Court can be a zoo. Each person called before the magistrate has only a few minutes to plead their case for a lower bond. The magistrate may have already reviewed the police records before you even see them. We can help point out reasons why you should not be given such a high bond and help change the magistrate's mind. Once you or a family member or friend is arrested, you should reach out to our legal team immediately.

There have been countless times where we have successfully negotiated with the Judge or prosecutor a reduced monetary bond or in some circumstances, no monetary bond to release our client. At the hearing, we will present evidence to show that you are not a danger to the community and are not a flight risk. These are the two main factors, along with the charges themselves, when considering bail for someone.

Unfortunately, some charges do not permit a Judge to provide someone a bail. These include felonies punishable by life or death and violations of probation. Fortunately, having a lawyer involved who understands these nuances, can assist in negotiating with a prosecutor bail for these types of cases.

The Investigation into the Case

Once you are charged with a crime, depending on the charges themselves, there is typically a "filing" stage. At this stage, a prosecutor known as the "filing prosecutor" will review your case to determine what charges, if any, can be filed against you based on what information they have at their disposal.

Time is of the essence at this stage because the sooner we get involved, the better chance we have to have a positive impact on the filing decision of your case. At this point, we can work to convince the filing prosecutor to drop the charges based on improper procedures or insufficient evidence. We investigate the case to see if there are any possible improprieties that could help acquit you before the case even goes to trial.

If you are charged with a crime, then the investigation into your case does not end. We will continue to explore all of the facets of your case including taking depositions, if strategically required. This entails questioning police about what procedures they used in conjunction with the case. In addition, the investigation phase may also involve collecting more information about the case and interviewing any witnesses. This information will be used to build a strong defense for you. If an expert witness is to be used in the case, we will interview them about their testimony and the evidence they may present.

For instance, a police officer is required to have probable cause before arresting a suspect. Probable cause is defined as a compelling reason to think that the suspect may have committed the crime. We have a nuanced understanding of how probable cause is defined in our jurisdiction and can use this knowledge to present a challenge in court. If we can demonstrate that the officer or officers might not have probable cause to make an arrest, charges may be dismissed before trial.

In addition, we are allowed to review the prosecution’s case before submission to the jury. This gives us the chance to find any holes in your case and to try to find evidence to refute the case. We may decide to hire an expert witness to give testimony or an independent lab to test the evidence in your case.

Pre-Trial Plea Bargaining

In many instances, pre-trial negotiations are engaged in often and at various stages of the litigation. This can range from the beginning when discussing the case with the filing prosecutor, all the way to just prior to trial. Sometimes clients want to engage in these sorts of negotiations to avoid further penalties down the line, to avoid other charges being filed, to accept responsibility, or because it is in their best interests to do so.

Sometimes these negotiations result in charges being dismissed and or reduced. Various programs exist which enable many types of offenders to have their charges dismissed, should that sort of resolution be negotiated.

At every stage, we will continually discuss the pros and cons of pleading guilty, not guilty, pleading no contest, and or entering any agreement with the government. We will always represent your best interests during the negotiations to make sure you get the best result possible. As an example, some jurisdictions may want to charge a minor accused of robbery as an adult. Having a qualified criminal defense lawyer can improve your chances of negotiating a deal so that the minor is charged as a juvenile and gets a lesser punishment.

Continued Communication with the Client

Continued contact is essential, and we are committed to keeping our clients up to date on the status of their cases. We will inform you of any developments and explain what they mean. This includes court dates and delays, as well as any offers from the prosecution. We are players on a team and the more we work together, the better results we can achieve.

Develop Strategy and Defense

When we analyze the evidence in your case, we carefully study the facts and possible theories of the case. We may decide to have evidence independently tested or reviewed by experts in that specific field.  We will also research and review legal theories for and against the possibility of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the government. Using this information, we develop the strategy and defense for your case.

Criminal Defense Lawyer Services at Trial

If your case goes to trial, we are with you. The trial is a long process, and there are many steps during which a lawyer is instrumental. Prior to trial, we will exhaust any and all other avenues to resolve your case in your best interest. Going to trial can be exhausting, both mentally and physically for the client, and we will remain at your side through it all.

Prior to trial, we will engage in massive preparation to ensure we understand the cases strengths and weaknesses from front to back and develop a strategy to pursue your defense.

The Jury Selection Process

Should we go to trial, there will be a jury selection process known as voire dire. During voire dire, we will interview prospective jurors to determine their suitability to serve on your jury.  We may try to have jurors removed from the case if we think they may be biased against you, or just have a bad feeling about them. The goal is to get the best jurors for your case on our panel.

Trial Participation

After all the interviews, research, and preparation, we represent and fight for you during the trial. Firstly, we begin with opening statements, providing the jurors a roadmap to what we believe will be shown in court through the form of testimony and evidence. We  cross-examine the state’s witnesses and present our own case with defense witnesses. Finally, we will give closing arguments to the jury and try to convince them that the prosecution has failed to prove its case and each charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

During Sentencing Phase

If the unfortunate thing occurs and you are convicted of a crime, there will be a follow up court date known as the sentencing hearing. We will represent you during the sentencing phase and discuss factors that might convince the judge to reduce the amount of time you serve and discuss potential alternatives to incarceration. Should you choose to appeal the case, we will discuss those options with you as well.

At Weinstein Legal, our dedicated team of attorneys is ready to help you fight for your right to expert representation. Don't wait, contact Weinstein Legal today.