The U.S. Constitution guarantees that anyone charged with a crime has the right to an attorney. You might think you can’t afford a lawyer. In that case, the court must provide you with one. These attorneys, known as public defenders, represent their clients for free and receive payment from the state. Even if you qualify for a public defender, that doesn’t always mean you should hire one.
A good criminal defense attorney does more than argue your case in court. They’re with you every step of the way, from the time of arrest until the verdict.
Here are some ways a criminal lawyer can help you get the best outcome from your case:
The state begins building a case against you long before you step into the courtroom. Rather, this process begins at the moment of arrest. You’ve heard the line, “Anything you say can and will be held against you.” It’s the truth. The police and the state are always gathering evidence to buttress their case against you.
This is why you shouldn’t say a word about your case or the alleged crime without an attorney present. A criminal defense attorney can advise you on what you should and shouldn’t say. They have years of experience studying the nuances of criminal law. They know it a lot better than you do.
It’s much easier to receive a good outcome in court if you haven’t unwittingly helped the other side build a case against you. The advice of a good criminal lawyer can ensure this doesn’t happen.
TV shows and novels promote the idea that all legal work happens in front of a judge and jury. But the truth is, many criminal cases get settled outside of a trial. For instance, the defense might bring to light something improper during the investigation. This can compel the state to drop charges before the case goes to trial.
Let’s say you’re facing DUI charges and looking at a fine or license suspension. Are you sure the officer had probable cause to pull you over in the first place? Even if you think they didn’t, that’s a hard case to make to a judge without legal training. But a criminal defense attorney knows the law and proper procedure. They can negotiate with the judge and potentially get your charges dropped on a technicality.
Perhaps you’re guilty of the crime, and the evidence against you is strong. You don’t have to go to trial and accept whatever sentence the judge hands you. You might be able to plea bargain to a lesser crime or reduced sentence.
Plea bargains are difficult to navigate without legal experience. A criminal defense attorney can look at your case and decide the best way to move forward. It might not be wise to accept a plea bargain if you have a good chance of acquittal at trial. But if a guilty verdict is certain, you avoid a lengthy sentence or felony record by plea bargaining.
Arguing Your Case
Lastly, criminal lawyers argue cases in court. They look at the strengths and weaknesses of your case, examine the state’s evidence against you, and counter the state’s arguments with arguments of their own.
You can try to represent yourself. But the law is a complex piece of machinery. Attempting to navigate it on your own is like trying to fly a plane without pilot training. A good criminal defense attorney is like a skilled pilot. They can get you to your destination safe and sound.
Private Criminal Defense Attorney vs. Public Defender
If you don’t make much money, you might qualify for a public defender. It might seem smart to use a free lawyer if you can. But there are some things to consider first.
Many public defenders are great lawyers. The problem is, they tend to be overworked and underpaid. The state often dumps more work on them than they can handle. It’s like a restaurant server who has too many tables. They want to provide great service, but often can’t due to sheer volume.
A private criminal defense attorney, by contrast, picks and chooses the work they want to take on. They can self-regulate their case load, so it remains at a sensible level. This ensures they have adequate time to spend on your case. Also, when you hire a private lawyer, you can shop around and choose the best one for your needs. By going with a public defender, you agree to let the state pick your lawyer.
Facing criminal charges results in serious stress. You want a good criminal defense attorney on your side. They can take the burden off your shoulders and steer your case to the best outcome.