What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do?

If someone has been charged with a crime, they may be wondering whether it is necessary to hire a criminal defense attorney. Specifically, what might a criminal lawyer do for them that they might not be able to do on their own?

Although the specifics of what a criminal defense lawyer does vary from case to case, generally, they invest a lot of time and energy into defending their clients. Their job consists not just of showing up in court and arguing the case. It can involve a series of steps before a case gets to a courtroom – if it gets there at all.

Below is a broad overview of some of the things a criminal attorney will do when defending a client:

Listening to Their Client's Side of the Story

One of the first things a criminal defense attorney will do is learn about the case from their client's perspective. During an initial consultation, they might get the gist of the story, but after their services are retained, they will ask more in-depth questions to get a feel for what happened.

During a series of interviews with their client, a criminal lawyer will ask pointed questions about the case. By gaining a better understanding of what happened, they can generate ideas on the path the case can take.

Helping Clients Understand Their Cases

The justice system is very complex. Laws are complicated and constantly changing. An attorney can help their client understand everything involved in their case.

The lawyer can discuss the statute their client is accused of violating. They can also make clear the consequences of a conviction. Although some laws explicitly list the possible prison sentence and fine, other sanctions, such as loss of driving privileges or the requirement to register as a sex offender, might not be immediately apparent.

Additionally, an attorney can discuss the various routes available for resolving their client's case. For example, not all criminal matters make it to court; some are settled through negotiations with the prosecution.

By clearly discussing the specifics of the case with their client, the criminal defense lawyer can help them make informed decisions about how to proceed.

Protects the Rights of Their Clients

Even though a person has been accused of a crime, that does not mean they do not have rights. Various protections are in place to facilitate a fair trial, and an attorney can ensure they are upheld.

Gives Advice During the Investigation

Some people might be aware that they are being investigated for an alleged offense, and retain legal representation at this early stage of the criminal justice process. When an attorney is hired during the investigation, they can guide their client during police interviews.

Investigate the Case

To fight a criminal charge, the defendant must provide evidence. Evidence can take various forms, including physical objects, witness statements, and expert testimony. An attorney can gather and preserve evidence for their client.

The attorney can also analyze the evidence, discuss what it means in terms of the charges against their client, indicate how it's pertinent, and decide how it counters the prosecution's arguments.

Identify Weaknesses in the Case

As the criminal defense attorney conducts their own investigation and receives the prosecutor's evidence against their client, they can start to spot the weaknesses in the State's allegations. In some cases, this may mean that they found that their client was subject to an unconstitutional search or that the prosecutor's evidence does not support the argument that their client violated a specific law.

Depending on the situation, the attorney may file motions with the court. They may seek to have certain pieces of evidence deemed inadmissible, meaning the prosecutor cannot use it (weakening their case). They might request to have the case dismissed or charges dropped because of insufficient evidence.

Argue on Behalf of Their Client

The criminal defense lawyer will also ensure their client's voice is heard in and out of the courtroom. They may, for example, enter talks with the prosecutor to attempt to negotiate a favorable outcome outside of court. However, if they cannot resolve the case with a plea deal, the attorney can present evidence in court to attempt to convince a judge or jury of the weaknesses in the prosecutor's case.

If their client is convicted, the attorney can represent them at sentencing. During this stage, they may present mitigating factors to argue why a lesser sentence should be imposed.

Retain Legal Representation

By taking care of the details of the case, criminal defense attorneys can relieve their clients of some of the stresses they might be facing.

If you have been accused of a crime in Salt Lake City, UT, get the legal representation you need by reaching out to Lokken & Putnam, P.C. We are prepared to do what it takes to pursue optimal results for the people we serve.

Schedule a case evaluation by calling us at (801) 829-9783 or contacting us online today.