When an individual is named as a defendant in a criminal case, he or she has a set a basic legal rights. Contained in these rights, is the representation of a criminal defense attorney. These lawyers play many various roles including the preparation of the trial in addition to the representation of the client in plea bargain negotiations. In cases where a defendant is unable to afford representation on their own, the courts will appoint them a public defense specialist.
A criminal defense attorney is the individual responsible for providing their client with the best possible representation against pending convictions and charges. It is their role to be sure the defendant is properly protected and able to obtain a fair trial. If convicted, defendants face significant penalties including imprisonment, probation, fines, and capital punishment.
Public defenders are those who carry the same responsibilities to clients as that of other criminal attorneys. The only difference here, is that public defense is appointed by governmental, state, and federal agencies to represent defendants who are unable to afford representation on their own.
A lawyer will often meet with clients in jail where the client is awaiting their trial. They will discuss the specifics of the case and begin to build up a case file. Case management takes up a large potion of the lawyer’s work day. They typically spend a good amount of time reviewing various cases and correspondence, indexing exhibits, organizing court documents, and handing off various duties to paralegals and assistants.
Defenders draft and prepare several motions and file them accordingly with the court prior to the start date of the trial. These motions include motions to strike prior convictions, motion to suppress evidence, move for summary judgment, and change of venue. In addition, defenders will draft pleadings including discovery, pretrial briefs, and complaints.
These professionals will many times attempt to negotiate deals of behalf of their clients in hopes of obtaining a lighter sentence. Prosecution may sometime offer a plea bargain, which is then brought before the defendant and explained in depth. Criminal defense attorneys are only allowed to advise their clients pertaining to decisions and should never pressure their clients one way or another. The lawyer must respect the wishes of the client regardless of whether they agree or not.
In cases where a plea bargain is not agreed upon, all parties will prepare for trial. This is done by gathering information from witnesses who may help to exonerate the client. In addition, the attorney will decide which investigators and experts to hire in a case to testify during the trial.
During the actual trial, the lawyer will present evidence, cross examine witnesses, and strike down evidence provided by the prosecution. If the defendant loses the case, the lawyer will make recommendations pertaining to sentencing followed by assisting the client through the appeal process.