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A Guide To Understanding Criminal Defense

In General
June 20, 2022
A Guide To Understanding Criminal Defense

Criminal law is a complex area of lawyering. Being a criminal defence lawyer takes more than just skills and guts. If you are still in the academy and considering specializing in this field. Here’s a quick guide to understanding criminal defence law more.

What is criminal defence?

Criminal defence is an argument. It is to challenge the validity and weight of the presented evidence of the prosecution. Criminal defence is about giving legal protection to people and entities. 

Criminal defence is a broad concept. Individuals and entities have the entitlement to raise their defences. In the United States justice system, the accused may raise a defence. Criminal defence ensures proportional justice to all parties. 

What is a criminal defence lawyer?

A criminal defence lawyer is the defendant’s confidant. Criminal defence lawyers in the United States are well-versed with defences to crimes. These crimes involve illegal arrests, drug charges, rape, and assault. Lawyers have different specializations and expertise in the field. For example, a sexual assault defense lawyer in New Jersey can help you with sexual assault cases. 

A criminal defence lawyer is someone who knows the law. From constitutional guarantees to the proving of innocence, they are the ones who can help. They are meticulous people whose goal is to defend their clients.

What does a criminal defense lawyer do?

Criminal defense lawyers are constantly chasing the clocks. They have a lot of things they need to do in their course of work, and some would work with affiliates. That said, we gathered what the professionals at The Law Offices of Jonathan F Marchall would say. Here are the things that defense lawyers usually do:

Educating clients about their rights

Sometimes, people do not know the legal implications of their actions. Ultimately, criminal defense lawyers advocates for their client’s rights. Trials are a rigorous process, and people have no idea about it except lawyers. Their clients should know about all the rights they have. 

Investigate the case

An investigation is the means of obtaining all information needed in the cases. Criminal defense lawyers usually collect evidence to use when they are representing someone. That would also involve looking at and gathering witnesses. Criminal defense lawyers establish truthful facts presented inside the court. 

Interview the witnesses

In establishing a proper defense, the defense counsel needs to interview witnesses. This is to gather all information about the case. Lawyers find a witness having the highest probability of weakening the prosecution’s case. A witness can also be an expert witness. They are persons who can give the court an opinion that is impartial and fair on the disputed matters. 

Build a strategic defense

Criminal defense lawyers should invest time in every case. They should think of a legal and proper defense for their clients. The defense counsel should be able to plan a way to win the case. Criminal defense lawyers should be able to counter the prosecution’s allegations. The strategies should be legal arguments that can dismiss the case. 

Paperwork

There are a lot of paperwork that lawyers do. Criminal defense lawyers should be able to make a draft, file, and argue motions in court. Criminal defense lawyers also keep track of all the necessary papers filed in court. 

Appear in court

Lawyers in the practice of criminal defense should advocate for their clients. Criminal defense lawyers are bound to help their clients. One vital thing that a lawyer must do is to appear and defend their clients inside the courtroom. 

Criminal defense lawyers guide their clients in legal proceedings. They help their clients to:

  • be treated with respect and without prejudice
  • understand their options
  • make sound choices
  • to choose for their best interest
  • abide the laws
  • be prepared for any results 

How can you find a good criminal defense lawyer?

It is necessary to find a lawyer that can help you. Your criminal defense lawyer should be able to discern the things you want to show. Lawyers are bound by confidentiality. Good criminal defense lawyers have the ability to:

  • listen to their clients
  • be honest in giving advice
  • ask necessary questions
  • pay attention to details
  • properly communicate
  • empathize with the client
  • not give up on any situation

What are the different criminal offenses?

There are different kinds of crimes. Criminal offences have five categories. Below is the list: 

Crime against a person

A crime against a person is a crime committed against another person. It involves bodily harm or threat to another individual. Crimes against a person include:

  • murder
  • assault
  • sexual assault
  • battery
  • child abuse and domestic abuse
  • kidnapping
  • rape
  • sexual harassment

Crime against property

A crime against property is a crime committed against the property of another. Here is the list of crimes that are in this category:

  • shoplifting
  • theft
  • robbery
  • larceny
  • burglary
  • arson

Statutory Crimes

Statutory crimes are violations of state and federal statutes. Statutory crimes include:

  • driving under the influence of alcohol
  • selling alcohol to minors
  • refusing to perform a breathalyzer
  • refusing to give blood samples
  • underage driving
  • drugs-related crimes
  • traffic offenses

Inchoate crimes

Inchoate crimes refer to incomplete crimes. They are those who started crimes but were not completed. Inchoate crimes include:

  • attempt and conspiracy
  • aiding and abetting a crime
  • incitement 
  • obstruction of justice 

Financial and other crimes

Financial crimes and other crimes cover the following offences:

  • fraud
  • money laundering
  • cybercrime
  • bribery
  • corruption
  • insider dealing
  • tax evasion
  • blackmail
  • embezzlement

What are the different and common criminal defenses raised in court? 

There are many common defences the counsel may allege against a criminal charge. A criminal defense lawyer looks into many holes to establish a good defense. Here’s a list of some common criminal reasons that defense lawyers raise in court:

Innocence

In the US, you are innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution has the burden of proof to establish that there is a commission of a crime. The defense counsel raised this defense when the accused did not commit the crime. 

Insanity

Insanity is an affirmative defense. This defense requires the defendant to prove that he suffers an irreparable mental defect while committing the crime. Proving insanity will need expert witnesses such as doctors and psychologist’s expert opinions. 

Violations in the Constitution

You raise this defense when there is a constitutional violation on the arrest. A constitutional violation happens when the arresting officer fails to:

  • obtain a warrant
  • illegal search and seizure
  • forced entry
  • failure to read the Miranda rights
  • duress in obtaining a confession 

Self-defense

You raise self-defense to justify the harm done to the other person as means of protecting yourself. Self-defense is justifiable only when there is an immediate threat, and self-defence is common in murder, homicide, assault, and battery cases. 

Defense of property

This defense is similar to self-defence. This defence is available to the accused, who had to make a necessary force to protect his property. 

This defense is available for criminal assault or battery. 

Defense of others

You raise this defense when you allow yourself to use a justifiable force to defend people you believe to be in imminent danger. The implied aggression should be in a quantifiable amount. This defense is available in cases of assault and battery. 

Coercion or Duress 

The coercion or duress defense is available when you do a crime outside your will. It involves someone who uses intimidating force and violence against you to commit the crime. This criminal defense is available in case of kidnapping, assault, and battery.

Alibi

Alibi is a defence made where the accused proves not to be somewhere near the scene of the crime. The defense counsel should provide an account and evidence in claiming this defense. This defense includes the whereabouts of the accused when the alleged act happened. 

Voluntary intoxication

Voluntary intoxication is knowingly ingestion of any drug or alcohol in your system. Establishing this as a defence is hard, and it can be possible in some crimes where the intent is an element, for example, burglary. 

Involuntary Intoxication

Involuntary intoxication happens when somebody tricks or forces you to consume a substance. This defense is available in criminal cases. It is when the accused claim that his mental state gets compromised during the crime performance due to drunkenness. This criminal defense is present in assault cases. 

Mistake of law 

A mistake of law defends a person ignorant of the law. This mistake involves a person who misunderstood the application of the law. This defense is rare and for limited circumstances only. The criminal defense of an error of law is only applicable when: 

  • the law punishing the criminal act is still not published
  • the defendant relied on a law that was later overturned and made unconstitutional 
  • the defendant relied on an overruled judicial decision
  • the defendant relied on an interpretation by an applicable official

Mistake of fact

It is a defence raised when the accused, in all honesty, misunderstood the crime’s facts and elements. This defense is available as fraud defense and embezzlement charges. 

What are some criminal defense strategies?

Criminal defenses should be strategic and legal, and raising them in court takes a lot of courage and evidence. Here are some defense strategies that criminal defense lawyers use when arguing in court: 

The truth strategy

The best strategy is when the criminal defense lawyer presents a defense based on the truth. Lawyers do not need to bend the law in their favour but to give facts that did happen. When doing this strategy, it has to have the following characteristics:

  • story based on evidence
  • you can prove
  • truthful
  • matched to facts

Witnesses’ credibility

To establish a good defense, you must show credible witnesses. A credible witness is someone competent and worthy of the court’s belief. The testimony of the witness should be truthful, and their narration of the facts must have evidence. 

Admission to the crime

Criminal defense lawyers use this strategy to mitigate the punishment of their clients. If a defendant is guilty of a crime, it is better to admit it for a lesser sentence. You can admit to the crime by giving a statement that acknowledges the commitment of the crime. 

How to become a criminal defense lawyer?

After finishing a bachelor’s degree. Here are the following steps into being a criminal defense lawyer:

Step 1: Study in law school

To become a lawyer, you must study a three to four-year law program. Law school will teach you all the theories you need to become a criminal defense lawyer. 

Step 2: Find internships or part-time jobs 

While still in law school, you can apply for internships or part-time jobs in criminal defense firms. Internships and part-time jobs allow you to explore and develop new skills, and they will enable you to apply the theories you learn in law school. Being part of this will also prepare you for what it is in the field. 

Step 3: Finish law school

Finishing law school is a necessary step in becoming a criminal defense lawyer. The formative years in law school will give you all the knowledge, and you will all need them to become an effective criminal defense lawyer. 

Step 4: Take the bar

After graduation, most law school students take the bar immediately. Passing the bar will enable you to have your law license, and your license can make you capable of practising law. 

Step 5: Learn in the field

The laws and statutes are not constant. A criminal defense lawyer should strive to learn even working as a lawyer. Study every case and read jurisprudence that can widen your knowledge. 

Is it worth being a criminal defense lawyer?

Many lawyers are moving away from this area. The reason is all the technicalities and difficulties in the process. It is also a risky job to do. You need to always think of a way to defend your client. The anxiety and pressure are high. 

Criminal defense lawyering is a dream. It is hard but a fulfilling and promising career. Lawyers on the field learn a lot in every case that they handle. The best thing about being a criminal defense lawyer is being able to help people at times when even all the odds are against them.