criminal defense lawyer what do they do

by Prof. Cloyd Cole 5 min read

What Are The Primary Duties of a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

  • Protecting Your Rights. Right at the outset, your defense attorney will inform you of your rights as a defendant. ...
  • Investigating The Case. ...
  • Negotiating a Plea Deal. ...
  • Defending You at The Trial. ...
  • Appealing The Decision. ...

What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do? Criminal defense attorneys (private and court-appointed) research the facts, investigate the case against their clients, and try to negotiate deals with their adversaries (prosecutors). These deals might include reduced bail, reduced charges, and reduced sentences.

Full Answer

What you can expect from the best criminal defense lawyer?

You should ask a prospective attorney these types of questions:

  • How long have you practiced law?
  • Have you handled a case like this?
  • What percentage of your time is spent on this specific type of case?
  • Do you focus on a certain area of criminal law?
  • What information do you need/should I prepare for our first meeting?
  • How do you handle fees? (Hourly, on retainer, per case, payment plans, credit cards, etc.)

Who are the best criminal defense attorneys?

The very best criminal defense lawyer in New York City will certainly spend 100% of his/her time on your case, and should have been exercising in the city for years. Their knowledge of the criminal justice system and also the regulation is substantial ...

What are the duties of a criminal defense lawyer?

What Are the Duties of a Criminal Attorney?

  • Privileged Communications. Criminal defense attorneys generally must maintain privilege, or privacy, regarding attorney-client communications.
  • Zealous Representation. A criminal defense attorney has a duty to zealously represent her client by taking all reasonable steps to prepare a viable defense.
  • Conflicts or Interests. ...
  • Honesty to Courts. ...

What skills do criminal defense lawyer need to know?

What Qualities Should a Good Criminal Lawyer Have?

  • Great communication skills: The lawyer should be as good a listener as he is a speaker. ...
  • Knowledge: All experts are expected to have complete knowledge of their field, but criminal lawyers need to be sharper and stay on top of their game as things tend to ...
  • Aggressiveness: The criminal lawyer should engage aggressively with any case. ...

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Misdemeanors Vs. Felonies

Within a criminal case, the prosecutors will push a criminal case to the extent of punishment by law. Misdemeanors are lesser of the crimes where the crime is punishable for up to a year in prison or extensive fines. Felonies are where the defendant may have committed a homicide, self-defense case, or grand theft.

Stand-Your-Ground Cases

In criminal cases, these are among the trickiest. Everyone has a right to defend themselves. This law was created so innocent people can use force, including deadly force, when threatened. Most times, the innocent person may be picked up by the police and taken in for questioning. This is when a defense attorney should be present.

What Do You Do If You Are Incarcerated?

If you are arrested, especially for something you did not do, do not fight back. Exercise your right to remain silent and speak only to your attorney. You have one phone call. Use it wisely. Some call their attorney right away, while others may call a loved one to have them contact their attorney.

Following Instructions

Following instructions or not can make or break your case. The attorney will run through a procedure to lessen the charges or get the charges dropped. In all situations, it is best to be 100 percent honest at all times. Tell your story and be brief and to the point. A courtroom does not want to hear a sob story; they want the truth.

What does a criminal defense lawyer do?

Few roles in the US justice system are as important and decisive. Defense attorneys play a pivotal, central role in the American criminal justice system.

Two Main Types of Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal defense attorneys fall into two broad categories: those that are court-appointed (paid for by the government), and those that are privately hired to represent the defendant (and paid for by the defendant).

About Private Criminal Defense Attorneys

While public defenders work for the government, private attorneys operate just outside the system, often with a professional background that includes working within it. Frequently, they are former prosecutors or public defenders with extensive insider knowledge into the local system in which they work.

The Role of a Defense Lawyer in Criminal Cases

The best criminal defense attorneys perform the comprehensive research, investigation, and analysis necessary to effectively defend their clients against the prosecutor's case. This can include analyzing the prosecutor’s case against the defendant—to which the defense attorney must legally be granted access—questioning witnesses, gathering and examining evidence, and much more.


There can be no doubt that interactions with the US criminal justice can be notoriously complex, expensive, and harrowing. Every criminal case is a unique matrix of circumstance, evidence, local jurisdictional laws, and individual human factors (including the financial means of the defendant).

What Are the Job Duties of a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

The legal system is so complex that most people can't navigate it on their own. That's where criminal defense lawyers come in. They understand the intricacies of the system so they can take up the legal battle for people who are accused of committing a crime.

Why Are Criminal Defense Lawyers' Responsibilities Important?

Lawyers often find themselves at the sharp end of jokes, but in representing the individual against the system, they provide an invaluable service to society. They make sure that the person accused of a crime is afforded the due process and consideration promised to them in our country's legal codes.

How Do You Become a Lawyer?

Aspiring criminal defense lawyers must go to school for four years to earn a bachelor's degree before enrolling in a law school that's accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Law school typically takes around three years to complete, so would-be attorneys are looking at around seven years of learning.

How Much Can You Make Practicing Law?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median salary for all lawyers in May 2020 was $126,930 per year. Attorneys who run their own law practices typically make less than those who work for businesses or law firms. Most lawyers work full time and a good number log over 40 hours a week.

What's the Job Outlook for Lawyers?

The legal profession is considered quite competitive, but employment is still expected to rise in the coming years. According to the BLS, legal occupations (paralegals, legal assistants, lawyers) are set to rise by 9% between 2020 and 2030.

What can a criminal defense attorney do?

Criminal defense attorneys can also assist you during the criminal trial. They can analyze your case, identifying its strengths and weaknesses. From there, your attorney and you can collaborate to come up with a defense strategy.

Why do people need a criminal defense lawyer?

Some people choose to retain a lawyer during the investigation period of a crime, before they are even charged. This often happens if someone is a suspect and has reason to believe that he or she will soon be charged. In these instances, a criminal defense lawyer may help instruct the individual while being questioned by authorities to ensure the suspect doesn't divulge any incriminating information.

What is probable cause in criminal defense?

Criminal defense attorneys have a nuanced understanding of probable cause as it is defined within your jurisdiction and may be able to present a challenge to the officers reasoning in court. If the attorney can show that the officer may not have had probable cause to investigate the alleged crime scene and make an arrest, ...

What happens when a suspect is questioned?

In these instances, a criminal defense lawyer may help instruct the individual while being questioned by authorities to ensure the suspect doesn't divulge any incriminating information.

What are lesser crimes that can lead to prison?

Misdemeanors, which are lesser crimes, might only entail a fine or a brief jail sentence, but felonies, which are more serious crimes, can lead to long prison terms. This is why it is so important to have someone knowledgeable about the law argue on your behalf.

Does the Constitution say that all citizens charged with a crime will be represented?

In fact, the U.S. Constitution promises that all citizens charged with a crime will be provided representation. If you have retained the services of a criminal law lawyer or are seeking to retain one, you should know what services your attorney may be able to perform.

What is a criminal lawyer?

Criminal lawyers, also known as criminal defense lawyers and public defenders, work to defend individuals, organizations, and entities that have been charged with a crime.

Where do criminal lawyers work?

Most criminal lawyers work in private practice or in a solo firm. Some work for non-profit agencies or for the government as public defenders. Criminal lawyers often work long, irregular hours. They frequently meet with clients outside their office at the courthouse, prisons, hospitals and other venues.

What are the skills required to become a criminal lawyer?

Criminal lawyers must possess a variety of additional skills to succeed in their jobs, including the following: Writing and speaking skills: Excellent oral and written advocacy skills in order to argue a client's case before a judge and persuade a jury.

What is the best way to become a lawyer?

Legal knowledge and experience: In-depth understanding of state, federal and local rules, court procedures, evidentiary laws, and local judges to navigate the criminal justice system efficiently and competently. Interpersonal skills: Excellent interpersonal skills are necessary to build a strong client-attorney relationship.

How long does it take to become a criminal lawyer?

Education: Like all lawyers, criminal lawyers must first complete a bachelor's degree, then obtain a law degree. The two degrees typically take a total of seven years to complete. License: Criminals attorneys must pass the bar examination in the state in which they intend to practice. Certification: Some criminal lawyers earn a board certification ...

How much does a criminal lawyer make?

Public defender and non-profit salaries are usually modest (the $30,000 to $50,000 range is common).

What is a public defender?

A public defender is an attorney appointed by the court to represent defendants who cannot afford a lawyer. Mock trial and moot court experience in law school are helpful as it allows the attorney to develop oral advocacy skills and gain trial experience in a simulated setting. . NETWORK.

What do defense attorneys do before they go to trial?

Before a defense attorney is retained, they will review their prospective clients case and discuss their strategy of defense. They will also give the accused advise to ensure that they do not damage their case before they go to trial.

Why is it important to learn what a defense attorney does?

If you would like to be an attorney, it is important to learn what a defense attorney does so that you can decide if you would like to represent defendants who are facing different levels of criminal charges.

What happens after a district attorney is arraigned?

After the arraignment, the attorney will receive the case file from the prosecutor and will begin to look for holes in the District Attorney’s case.

What happens when an attorney is retained?

Once the attorney is retained, anyone charged with a crime will need to appear for an arraignment. At the arraignment, the charges will be read and the defendant or the attorney will enter their response.

Can I sit for the bar exam with a JD?

Once you hold your J.D., you will be eligible to sit for the bar exam so that you can legally practice as a criminal attorney, a civil attorney or even a corporate attorney.

What is the job of a criminal defense attorney?

Criminal defense attorneys, who stand beside clients accused of everything from minor offenses to mass murder, must mount the most effective defense of their client possible no matter how heinous the crime. While their work enforces a person’s constitutional right to a fair trial, some observers chastise them for representing society's villains.

Why do criminal defense attorneys chastise?

While their work enforces a person’s constitutional right to a fair trial, some observers chastise them for representing society's villains. In their view, that’s missing the point. In addition to making sure the scales of justice are balanced, criminal defense attorneys find satisfaction in tackling cases with high stakes.

What is the adage about never talking to police without an attorney present?

The adage about never, ever talking to police without an attorney present? It’s probably the single best piece of advice any defendant will ever get, yet many still refuse to let the message sin k in. “I can’t think of anyone who has ever talked their way out of being charged,” Gates says.

Do defense attorneys see obvious way to win?

Sometimes prosecutors are so determined to nail defendants—particularly in federal trials where ample government resources can mount suffocating cases—that defense attorneys see no obvious way to win. For Lichtman, that’s part of the appeal.

Is it easier to defend an innocent client?

It might seem like an innocent client would be easier to defend. But according to Gates, having a strong belief that a client is falsely accused creates additional strain on the defense. “It’s very stressful because you’re really identifying with the person,” he says.

Do attorneys have to let their feelings get in the way of a client's defense?

Some defendants have clearly committed terrible crimes, but they still have constitutional rights—so attorneys don't let their personal feelings about a crime get in the way of a client's defense.