What is Criminal Defense Law?
Criminal defense law consists of the legal protections afforded to people who have been accused of committing a crime. Law enforcement agencies and government prosecutors have extensive resources at their disposal. Without adequate protections for the accused, the balance of power within the justice system would become skewed in favor of the government.
Defense attorneys know how to use constitutional guarantees to the advantage of their clients. For example, all criminal prosecutions are based upon evidence gathered by the government. This may include physical items of evidence, witness statements, confessions, drug and alcohol tests, and other similar items. The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the police from using unreasonable search and seizure to gather evidence. If they do, it will be asked of the court to suppress that evidence so it cannot be used.
The Constitution provides many more protections that apply to the field of criminal defense law. The 5th Amendment include “Double Jeopardy” which states that someone who has been tried and acquitted of a crime cannot again be charged with that same offense. The 6th Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to a public trial, and in many cases, the right to have their innocence decided by a jury of their peers. It also gives the right to confront adverse witnesses, and to use the court’s subpoena power to compel the appearance of witnesses.
Securing a Release from Jail Pending Trial
Following an arrest, the first thing defendants will want to do is get out of jail. Obtaining a release from jail while a case is pending requires the defendant to post bail. In simple terms, bail is “good faith” money, giving the court a form of collateral to ensure the defendant returns to court to attend any future proceedings in the case. If the defendant fails to appear, the bail money is forfeited. A defendant who cannot afford bail may use a commercial bond service or ask the judge to reduce the bail amount. Judges may agree to reduce bail if it can be shown that the defendant has strong ties to the local community or does not pose a danger to others.
Plea Bargaining Strategies
A vast majority of criminal cases never reach the trial stage. The defendant and the prosecuting attorney will instead enter into a settlement agreement known as a plea bargain. Basically, the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a lenient sentence. Defendants seeking a plea bargain can take one of two general approaches; they can fight the charges and create more work for the prosecuting attorney or the defendant can fully cooperate, demonstrate true remorse, and convince the prosecutor that a lenient sentence is appropriate because they have changed their criminal ways.
Presenting a Winning Defense to the Jury
When a case does go to jury trial, one of the keys to success is presenting a coherent, persuasive theory to explain to the jury why the defendant has been falsely accused and is therefore innocent. The defendant’s attorney will touch upon this theory throughout the trial, creating a narrative that resonates with jury members and reinforces their pre-existing beliefs about the issues in the case. Developing the right theory and presenting it effectively is the goal of every criminal defense trial lawyer.
Consider the following example:
In a farming community, a farm hand is pulled over on his way home from work. He is arrested for Driving Under the Influice after doing poorly on a field sobriety test that requires balancing on one leg. At trial, his defense attorney explains that the defendant was unable to stand on one leg because he was exhausted from working on a farm all day in the Florida heat, not because of alcohol intoxication. The jury members empathize, many of them being farmers themselves. After considering the evidence in light of the defense, the jury returns a verdict of not guilty.
Reasons to Hire a Defense Attorney
The criminal justice system is not designed for people to represent themselves. If you have been arrested or have a warrant for arrest, you need an attorney to stand up for you and your rights, fight back against overzealous officers, and obtain the best result.