A criminal defence lawyer is an experienced lawyer specializing solely in the defence of people and businesses charged with criminal conduct. Their legal expertise in this field of law involves all facets of law and criminal practice, from the technical areas of the law to more strategic aspects of the law. They will often defend individuals or businesses, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Most criminal defence lawyers are also appointed as a public defender (for people charged with crimes or misdemeanors), as well as by governments such as the State Bar Association (SBA) to handle cases that fall outside of their own specialty. Criminal defence lawyers represent their clients before the court, and in some jurisdictions, they may also be called upon to testify at the preliminary hearing, so they must have a thorough understanding of the law. There are several types of criminal offences and charges, including:
Serious felonies, which include murder, manslaughter, arson, assault and rape. These crimes require a trial to prove guilt, and can result in a prison sentence of up to thirty years in a state prison or a lengthy term of probation. Criminal defence attorneys who specialize in serious crimes will represent clients charged with felonies.
Some misdemeanours include possession of drugs, theft, disorderly conduct, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Misdemeanours usually result in probation with a small fine and can also be referred to as “civil” offences. A common type of civil offence is failure to appear in court for a scheduled court date, or failure to pay traffic tickets. Many states also have specialised in criminal defence attorney associations, which help to ensure that attorneys are well-informed about the different issues and laws surrounding each individual case.
The court system allows people to hire their own defence attorney to represent them. The hiring process varies from state to state, and an individual will have to meet a certain number of criteria, such as being 18 years or older, and having legal representation from a legal practitioner with experience in criminal law. Depending on the specific offence, the defence attorney will also have to prove that he has a working knowledge of the laws involved, and that he has the expertise to effectively defend the accused.
It is possible to hire a qualified, professional criminal defence attorney to represent you. However, it is always best to make sure you are represented by a specialist who has experience in the criminal law. and has gained specialised training in your specific area of expertise.