Put simply, the role of a criminal defense attorney is to speak on behalf of someone who has been charged with a crime, during the trial. However, there is a lot more that goes into being a defense attorney than just that. So, read on to find out exactly what a criminal defense attorney’s role is during a legal case.
There are four main tasks that a criminal lawyer has to do during a legal case and each one is vital to a successful outcome.
1. Gathering all the information
2. Assessing the pros and cons of a plea bargain
3. Getting the best jury for his client
4. Representing the defendant during the trial
Let’s look at each one in a little more detail.
1. Gathering All the Information
The defense attorney’s first task is to find out as much as he can about the crime committed and the person that the prosecutor believes is responsible for the crime (the attorney’s client). When all the information has been collected, it is then up to the attorney to decide what evidence there is and what the chances are of the prosecution getting a guilty verdict. This part of the process is extremely important because the prosecutor’s office will almost certainly offer a plea bargain.
2. Assess the Pros and Cons of a Plea Bargain
You might be surprised to learn that there are so many criminal cases at any one moment in time in the US that prosecutors will pretty much automatically offer a plea bargain. The advantage of this is that the prosecutor saves time and money if the defendant takes the deal. The advantage for the defendant is that if they are guilty and accept the deal, they spend less time in prison for the lesser crime they plead to.
However, a good defense attorney, such as criminal defense attorney Matthew Leyba, should know if the prosecution has a good case or not, and recognize that the plea bargain is being offered because the evidence is weak. If that’s the case, the attorney should reject the deal and go to court on their client’s behalf. However, even if the attorney believes it would be wise to take the deal, the defendant can always refuse. Of course, this runs the risk to the defendant of receiving a much heavier sentence if found guilty.
3. Get The Best Jury For a Client
If the case does progress to court, this is where a defense attorney really earns their money. If the trial is a jury trial, the first step is to work out which jurors will be the most sympathetic to the attorney’s client and try to get them selected. Of course, at the same time, the prosecutor is trying to find jurists who will be the least sympathetic to the defendant to increase the likelihood of a guilty verdict.
4. Represent the Defendant During the Trial
Finally, when the trial starts in earnest, the defense attorney is there to speak for the defendant and, hopefully, secure a verdict of innocence for their client. The attorney is also there to give advice as the case is proceeding, such as whether the defendant should take the stand or not.
To summarize, a defense attorney gathers information, assesses the plea deal, tries to secure the best jury, and represents the defendant during a trial.