What You Can Expect from the Best Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are looking at some serious penalties or time in prison, you will want to have the best criminal defense lawyer fighting for you.
If you are looking at prison time or a hefty criminal penalty, you should most likely look to hire the best criminal defense lawyer possible, unless your income qualifies you to get a court-appointed lawyer. To put it simply, the legal system is designed in such a way that, even if you have a great mind and a high IQ, representing yourself in a criminal trial in a competent manner is almost impossible. Because no one criminal case is exactly like another, criminal defense lawyers are trained to pick out the special portions of each case that make them unique. In addition, the best criminal defense lawyer for you may be able to spot certain arguments and factors that could mitigate or even negate any potential crime. When it is all said and done, getting an attorney to represent you in your criminal trial is a necessity.
A criminal defense lawyer has many jobs. In addition to calling witnesses in your defense and cross-examining witnesses that the prosecution puts forward, your criminal defense attorney may also:
- Work with you and the prosecutor to negotiate a "deal." These deals, also known as "plea bargains" can often reduce your potential sentence or eliminate some or all of the charges brought against you. However, prosecutors are often unwilling to negotiate with defendants that represent themselves.
- Figure out a good sentencing program for your situation. In the event that you are found guilty, your criminal defense attorney may be able to work your sentence in a way that would prevent you from winding back up in the criminal justice system. For instance, instead of going to prison for 10 months, your criminal defense attorney may suggest that you go to prison only for 6 months and spend the remaining 4 months in a drug treatment facility to help you with the drug problem that landed you in trouble in the first place.
- Help you with the emotions that often go along with criminal trials. Defendants in criminal prosecutions often feel embarrassed, depressed, and fearful and can also suffer from low self-esteem.
- Provide you with a reality check. Defense lawyers often know what is going on much better than you will during your criminal trial. Defense attorneys have the advantage of remaining objective throughout a proceeding and can offer insights into how the trial is actually going and what is likely to happen in the near future. These assessments and reality checks are often essential when a criminal defendant is trying to decide whether or not to accept a prosecutor's plea bargain.
- Point out important legal rules and regulations that you would most likely never find on your own. Many rules and laws about criminal prosecutions are buried within regulations and laws, and even prior court opinions. For example, if you were to represent yourself, you may never know if the search that the police conducted of your apartment was lawful or not without understanding the many nuances and intricacies surrounding the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
- Navigate your case through the state legal system where your case is being heard. In addition to written rules, such as the local rules of court, that must be obeyed and followed, there are often many "unwritten rules" that go along with each jurisdiction. For example, if only certain prosecutors are able to make and approve plea bargains, your criminal defense lawyer may save you time (and maybe even jail time) by talking to the right person the first time.
- Explain about some of the "hidden costs" that come along with pleading guilty. Many people that represent themselves never think about the consequences of pleading guilty if it could lead to a shorter sentence. For example, if you plead guilty, you may find it very hard to find a job once you have completed your punishment.
- Be able to spend more time and effort on a case than a defendant that chose to represent himself (after all, it is the attorney's job to represent you!).
- Be able to more easily gather evidence and statements from witnesses that are going to be called by the prosecution. Many witnesses, understandably so, refuse to give statements or information to people that were allegedly involved in a crime, for fear of their own safety. However, these witnesses are often much more willing to talk to an attorney about their upcoming testimony.
- Find and hire investigators that can investigate not only the alleged crime but also the witnesses that the prosecution is going to call to the stand. If these investigators can find evidence that would make a witness's testimony less believable, this could help your case tremendously.
- Find and hire "expert witnesses" that may be able to present evidence that would tend to show your innocence or rebut evidence that the prosecution presents which would make the prosecution's case less credible.
Reading Books Probably Won't Help You Too Much
Unbeknownst to many criminal defendants that seek to represent themselves, reading books that spell out crimes, punishments and defenses will probably not lead you to victory in your case. Indeed, there is quite a vast difference between reading about the law and actually practicing the law in court, as any seasoned lawyer will tell you. Understanding the currents, subtleties, ebbs and flows of a criminal trial is what can make the difference between winning and losing your case.
The "prosecutorial discretion" is a prime example of these ebbs and flows. The simple decision of what to charge a criminal defendant with can make the difference in how a case is handled. For example, what may appear to be a simple crime on paper could realistically be cast to be a multiple count indictment, or a simple misdemeanor. Which prosecutor is charged with making this decision can have a great impact on your case. Criminal defense lawyers are skilled at negotiating with prosecutors to figure out what counts to charge.
So, if you are really set on representing yourself in court, you should, at the very least, retain the best criminal defense lawyer possible to act as a coach during your trial.