Criminal Defense: Choosing An Attorney to Defend Your Rights
When you are arrested and charged with a crime, the consequences are very serious. Depending on the type of crime or illegal conduct that you are charged with, you may face many years in prison, loss of your job, driver’s license, family problems, and the list goes on. The first and foremost action that you should take when accused of and illegal act – a crime- is to retain a criminal defense attorney. Get legal advice and counsel immediately.
Choosing a criminal defense attorney is a serious decision and should be carefully considered. Being prosecuted for a crime is serious business. Obviously, the financial part of the decision to choose the lawyer who will defend you is a factor, but money should not be the sole deciding factor. Paying for a private criminal attorney is sometimes difficult, but if you have any financial resources like credit, or the ability to borrow from family or friends, then you should explore those options. There are competent public defense attorneys for the truly indigent criminal defendants, but they are often very overworked. When your freedom and future life are on the line, it is often worth your while to retain a private defense attorney. Also keep in mind that if you bail out of jail, the court is unlikely to appoint legal counsel, there is a presumption that you have the financial resources to pay for an attorney.
What does a criminal attorney do for you? What should you look for when choosing a criminal lawyer to represent you in the criminal court? First and foremost, a criminal defense attorney is there to protect your constitutional rights, to make sure that the criminal justice process is fair and that the rule of law is properly followed. As your advocate, the lawyer will make sure that the government (state, local or federal) including the prosecutor and the police have done their job according to proper procedure and within the law. A criminal attorney should also be able to negotiate effectively with the District Attorney (prosecutor) to work out a plea agreement or plea bargain if that is the direction the case should take. Finally, a criminal defense attorney as counselor and adviser should be willing to explore the options with you, and explain the pros and cons of each option, not merely saying you need to plead guilty, or we need to go to trial.
A criminal defense lawyer should interview you thoroughly to make sure that he has all of the facts, and knows what to look for in the case against you, and should examine all of the government’s evidence then review it with you. Often times the evidence is the deciding factor in whether to proceed to jury trial or to attempt to negotiate a plea agreement.
A criminal law attorney should always be prepared to discuss the case strategy with you and advise you of the pros and cons of any defense strategy. Remember you are the ultimate decision maker in your case. However, if your attorney and you can not reach agreement as to strategic decisions, then your lawyer may need to withdraw and allow you to obtain alternate legal counsel – a new attorney.
Plea Bargain or Jury Trial?
When you meet with a criminal attorney for the first time, you should ask a few pointed questions so that you know the kind of representation and legal defense you can expect. For instance, Do you always try to work out a plea agreement, or will you go to trial if necessary? What if I (meaning you) disagree with the attorney’s legal defense strategy? If the criminal case goes to trial before a jury then how much more money will I have to pay? — Often times a criminal attorney’s retainer is based on the preliminary criminal process (arraignment, settlement discussions, preliminary hearing) not including a jury trial. Obviously, if you are innocent it would seem that the case should go to trial as opposed to a plea bargain, but this is not always the case. A criminal jury trial is quite risky, and depending on the nature of the crime charged, this decision can be very difficult to make. Be sure that your lawyer will counsel and advise you thoroughly about the defense strategy and the consequences of jury trial versus pleading guilty – a plea bargain.
What about pre trial diversion?
If you have never been convicted of a crime for which you were confined – spent time in jail – you may qualify for pre trial diversion which is now judicial diversion in Tennessee. Be sure to discuss pre trial or judicial diversion with your lawyer. Remember that in the typical case a pre trial diversion or judicial diversion requires you to plead guilty to the crime charged, or a reduced (lesser) charge if the prosecutor will agree.
Other things to consider when charged with a crime
There is another factor you need to consider when facing criminal charges: Most criminal attorneys fall into one of two categories, 1) The attorney who wants to know all of the facts, including if you actually committed the crime with which you are charged; and 2) The attorney who only wants to know what you believe the government can prove. There are pros and cons to both of these philosophies of legal defense and should be reviewed with a criminal attorney. One of the most important factors in choosing a lawyer to defend you in a criminal case is trust. Your freedom and your life is in the hands of your legal counsel.
Remember that neither this article, nor any other internet source is a substitute for legal advice, for legal advice you should consult with an attorney- choosing the right criminal attorney to defend you and protect your rights is a serious and personal decision.