Understanding What Your Criminal Defense Attorney Can Do For You

What does a criminal defense attorney do? More specifically, what is a criminal defense attorney’s responsibility to his clients? Some say defense attorneys protect the innocent from wrongful conviction. Others cynically say that defense attorneys help criminals “beat the rap.”

But as we mentioned in last week’s post, a criminal defense attorney, first and foremost, must make sure that his client receives a fair trial. That includes the often difficult task of reminding jurors that all clients are innocent until or unless prosecutors can prove they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is one thing to say “innocent until proven guilty.” It is quite another to believe it. Most people are quick to assume that if you are facing criminal charges, you must have done something wrong. Defense attorneys may have little control over the court of public opinion, but they work hard to make sure that assumptions of guilt do not have a place in the actual courtroom.

Moreover, defense attorneys protect the civil rights of the accused, and the civil rights of all Americans by extension. Government agencies (including law enforcement and the court system) cannot deprive us of life or liberty without due process. Inherent in due process are all the legal rights afforded to individuals.

In criminal cases, this includes:

  • Protection from unreasonable search and seizure
  • The right to a trial by an impartial jury
  • The right to legal advocacy even if a defendant can’t afford it
  • The right to stay silent rather than being forced to make self-incriminating statements
  • Many other rights too numerous to list here

In high-profile cases that get a lot of media attention, spectators often complain that defense attorneys help free individuals who “seem” guilty. But remember that the default presumption is innocence. It is up to prosecutors to prove guilt, not for defense attorneys to prove innocence.

Regardless of whether you are facing charges for drunk driving, white collar crime, drug possession or any other offense, you have rights and they need to be respected. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is perhaps the best way to ensure that outcome.

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