People often assume the only time to hire a lawyer in a criminal case is when the charges against them are so serious that they'll end up in jail. They may also think they can handle it until the actual trial itself happens. But neither of those things are true. There's a lot about a criminal case that can affect your life for years to come, including your permanent record and yes, how much time if any is spent in jail. Many mistakes can be made along the way, whether you're facing six months or six years or more, but a lawyer can help in many ways — not just arguing on your behalf, but in ways you might not think of.
Types of Crimes You Need A Lawyer For
Regardless of the criminal charge, a lawyer can help you. Criminal lawyers don't just handle murder trials; we also handle drunk driving, assault, battery, sex crimes, petty theft, burglary and more. Criminal law is very complex. It requires a very detailed understanding of procedural and evidentiary rules or you could end up being railroaded by a more experienced litigator or even missing opportunities for an appropriate defense because of a lack of knowledge of the law. After all, what you see on TV isn't really the way criminal trials go. A criminal defense attorney helps you with multiple steps along the road.
1. Reviewing Bail Information
If you watch a lot of Law & Order, you know the arraignment is a common first meeting of the attorneys. During this process, the charges will be read and the judge will determine bail. Not only is there an opportunity for some defendants to be released on their own recognizance (meaning the judge has reason to believe they aren't a flight risk, including your ties to your family and to the community, your employment status and the nature of the charges against you among other mitigating factors), if it is determined bail should be set, the judge is responsible for doing so. It's pretty important to have an attorney during these proceedings or you could end up spending more time in jail or more money on bail than you should have.
Various jurisdictions have different rules about how bail is determined, and you need an experienced lawyer on your side to get you the best circumstance possible. The U.S. Constitution prohibits excessive bail, of course, but you're automatically up against an experienced litigator in the prosecution. You have the right to have meaningful access to your legal representative and to aid in your own defense, and you should take it. If the bail you're ordered to pay is unfair, a criminal defense attorney can petition the court to review and modify it. Depending on the charges, excessive bail may include anything that unduly impacts your employment, affects your health or is deemed to be unduly expensive. This, of course, will be weighed against the charges against you, but it still pays to have an attorney on your side.
2. Evidentiary Discovery
Discovery is the process in which evidence uncovered by both the prosecution and the defense is turned over to the opposition via an established legal process. You, as a criminal defendant, have the right to know what evidence they have against you to mount your defense. There are established rules about what type of information must be supplied to opposing council, but if there's any question about it, a lawyer can help you with that. But their most important role in the discovery process is knowing what type of information to ensure they have (and how to look at it), including evidence that may prove your innocence.
3. Determining Defense Strategy
By discussing the events leading up to your arrest and the allegations against you with your attorney, your attorney can develop a defense strategy. This is one of the most important functions of a criminal lawyer, who has the experience and education to determine what's best for their clients. They know at which points to attack procedural issues, how to argue when the confession (if it exists) may have been coerced or involuntary, how to locate additional witnesses that weren't interviewed or vetted fully by the police or prosecution who might provide an alibi for the defendant, among other things. They do this by having an understanding of federal and state laws, procedural issues and previous cases heard in the same area or others.
4. Filing Motions
After they've determined what the appropriate defense is, a criminal defense attorney will now file any motions necessary to move that defense forward. Depending on the circumstances, for example, they may file motions to suppress evidence they believe was procured unconstitutionally, a confession that was obtained through coercion and more.
5. Negotiating with the Prosecution
Your criminal defense attorney can meet with the prosecuting attorneys to determine what happens next. In some circumstances, they may be able to persuade the prosecution to dismiss the charges given the available evidence or give you a plea bargain. If not, the case will go to trial.
How to Get a Defense Attorney
Everyone is entitled to legal counsel, regardless of how serious the crime you're accused of is. If you have concerns about the so-called "counsel provided for you," you're not alone. While we always advocate invoking your right to counsel as soon as possible, you're not stuck with the person who shows up if you don't have an attorney to call right then. To get the absolute best representation, you should contact other attorneys for interviews. If you've been arrested for criminal charges in the Kissimmee, Florida, area, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a consultation.
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