Criminal lawyers represent people from all walks of life.
Unfortunately, movies and TV shows have portrayed criminal lawyers in a bad light, prompting members of the public asking the question criminal lawyers get asked too often, “but how can you defend a criminal?”, or “how can you defend a guilty person?”.
Too often we hear about a media coverage of either someone charged with a serious alleged offence or how a criminal lawyer has got his/her client off a charge due to a “technicality” or “loop hole” in the law.
The job of a criminal lawyer is both difficult and rewarding.
Their clients range from taxi drivers, struggling single parents, troubled children, to corporations, directors, bankers, including the rich and famous.
Criminal Lawyers’ Role
A criminal lawyers job is not just to defend an accused person. It goes far beyond that.
Our criminal justice system is built on the principle that we rather have a guilty person be let free than an innocent person jailed.
To reflect this principle in practice, for an accused person to be found guilty, the prosecution is required to prove, with sufficient evidence, to the court that the accused person committed the offence “beyond reasonable doubt”.
Up until such time, the accused person is presumed innocent.
In line with the same principle, the accused person is given the benefit of the doubt.
This means, if the extent of the evidence shows that an accused person ‘possibly’ committed the crime, the court would be required to return a verdict of “not guilty”, resulting in dismissal of the charge(s) and acquittal of the accused.
Criminal charges may bring you a number of troubles including hefty fines, severe penalties and drastic impacts on social, personal and professional life. And, to avoid all such undesirable consequences, one seeks the legal guidance of a criminal defense attorney who knows the legal system well and can help in lowering the penalties or dismissing the charges. However there are many clients or prospective clients who don’t have a clear idea about the actual roles and responsibilities of a criminal defense lawyer. Criminal defense is a challenging area of law and protecting the rights and interests of defendants requires substantial skills and expertise.
Have a look at the roles and responsibilities of a competent and reliable criminal defense lawyer:
Assessing the Case
A good criminal defense attorney must assess the case thoroughly, taking into account all the aspects of the case. Even if the defendant is at fault, the attorney must handle the case smartly, suggesting measures to tackle the problem.
It’s important to collect as much information as possible about the case. It’s a good idea to visit the scene of crime for collecting proof or other valuable information which can strengthen the case. If there are witnesses, the attorney must talk to them and gather information. A defense attorney must work extensively to collect evidences and protect them from being manipulated.
Keeping Clients Updated
A criminal defense attorney may have to appear at the court several times. This must be done promptly, without any delay. Also, the attorney must keep his client updated about the progress of the case.
Must be Knowledgeable
A criminal defense lawyer must have a good knowledge about the laws and appeals that should be used to protect the client’s interest. He should have in-depth knowledge of the individual’s rights and must emphasize on them while dealing with the prosecution.
Your attorney must be capable of analyzing and judging the situation well. His responsibility includes identifying the loopholes in the prosecution’s case and figuring out smart strategies to support the defendant and get his charges dismissed or lowered.
Handling Stressful Situations
A defense attorney may have fluctuating working hours. He may need to attend situations and proceedings of the cases at unexpected time and ideally he must be prepared and willing to devote himself to his duties. He must be capable of handling stressful situations.
Before hiring a good criminal defense attorney, it’s important to know about his roles and responsibilities so that you can keep a track of his work and progress. A criminal defense attorney plays a very important role in the legal system and, thus, it’s important that he is committed to his roles and responsibilities so that the defendants could get a fair judgment.
Criminal defense attorneys generally must maintain privilege, or privacy, regarding attorney-client communications. Privilege allows clients to safely speak to their attorneys without fears of reprisals, but there are exceptions. Privilege does not apply if clients use their attorneys’ advice to commit crimes. Generally, attorneys may break privilege pursuant to court orders or to prevent deaths or bodily injuries. Clients also may waive their right to privilege. And, when clients die, prior attorney-client communications generally lose privileged status.
A criminal defense attorney has a duty to zealously represent her client by taking all reasonable steps to prepare a viable defense. She must gather facts, interview witnesses, review police reports, subpoena documents, and research case precedents and statutes. Attorneys may also request courts to consider new and novel interpretations of existing law to support their client’s interests. Attorneys should be prepared to examine witnesses at trial and to prepare compelling arguments for judges and juries.
Conflicts or Interests
Criminal defense attorneys have a duty to avoid conflicts of interests when representing their clients. For example, if several accountants are accused of criminal fraud their defenses may include shifting blame to one another. Attorneys cannot implicate one client to help another. Attorneys must also ensure that past clients do not create conflicts in current cases. For instance, an attorney may not be able to adequately attack a witness if the two of them previously shared an attorney-client relationship.
Honesty to Courts
A criminal defense attorney, like all lawyers, is an officer of the court and owes a duty of candor to judges and juries. He may not knowingly make representations to courts that are untruthful. He is required to be as honest as possible when communicating with courts. He cannot support clients who commit perjury. Attorneys must take reasonable steps to remedy known perjury by clients, which may include lawfully breaking attorney-client privilege to report it.
To excel in this role, you will display a passion for criminal law, a strong understanding of litigation strategies, and exceptional public-speaking skills. You should also show compassion toward your clients and conduct yourself in a professional manner, irrespective of the crime they have been accused of. Previous experience as a criminal lawyer is advantageous.