The two main categories of laws in the United States are civil laws and criminal laws. Civil laws address behaviors that cause injuries to individuals or involve private parties filing a lawsuit.
Criminal laws are intended to punish individuals if they engage in wrongdoing or to compensate victims of bad acts. Criminal laws address behaviors that are considered offenses against society, the state, or the public, even when the victim of the crime is not an individual.
If a criminal defendant is convicted of a crime, they may be required to serve time in prison or in jail, and they may also be required to pay criminal fines.
What Is Criminal Procedure?
Criminal procedure is the legal process where a claim is adjudicated that an individual, called a defendant, has violated a criminal law. In the U.S., all criminal defendants are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty.
Criminal procedure involves numerous different aspects of criminal law, including:
- Stop, detention, and arrest;
- Search and seizure;
- Booking and filing charges;
- Suspect or eyewitness lineup Identifications;
- Appointment of counsel, or the assigning of a court-appointed lawyer;
- Plea bargaining;
- Criminal evidence;
- Criminal sentencing;
- Appeal; and
- Probation and parole.
What Is Criminal Defense?
If an individual has been accused of committing a crime, they are referred to as a defendant. The charges against a defendant may be reduced or even dropped if a defense is available that justifies or excuses the defendant’s behavior.
How Is a Defense Strategy Formed in a Criminal Case?
An individual and their criminal defense lawyer will work together when they create their defense strategy. A defense strategy typically emerges when an attorney reviews what evidence the prosecution has along with their client’s version of the incident.
An individual should always tell their attorney the whole true story surrounding the incident so their attorney can help them in the best way possible. Defense strategies are formed when an individual and their lawyer can share a version of the incident that is more likely to result in a satisfactory outcome for the defendant.
For example, an individual may not be guilty because they acted in self-defense. It is up to an individual’s lawyer and their client to create the most accurate and legally helpful version of the incident that is relevant to the case and is consistent with the physical evidence.
Are There Other Reasons to Tell the Truth to My Lawyer?
Yes, there are other reasons to tell the truth to an attorney. It may reveal that an individual is guilty but one of a less serious offense.
If an individual lies and insists they are completely innocent, but the evidence is against them, their lawyer may not be able to arrive at a realistic plea bargain or be able to convince the jury to convict the defendant of a lesser offense. If a defendant tells the complete truth, it may reveal facts that suggest these things may be possible.
A defense attorney may also be able to use those facts to argue for the minimum punishment if the defendant is convicted. For example, if their client was tricked into committing the crime.
In addition, if a client lies to their lawyer and the lawyer finds out, that lawyer may terminate the representation, and the client may be required to hire a new attorney.
What Kind of Defense Strategies Are There?
There are many different types of defense lawyer tactics and criminal defense strategies. Which can be used will depend on the details of the case. The majority of defense strategies, however, will fall into one of three categories, such as:
- Denial: A defendant may claim that they are completely innocent;
- Admission: A defendant may admit that some facts cited by the prosecution are true, but that the outcome is different then what the prosecution believes;
- For example, if fingerprints are present at the scene of a robbery, then an admission defense would say that the defendant was indeed at the scene. However, the defendant was a customer, not a criminal; and
- Confession: A defendant may admit guilt, but there may be mitigating factors that might lessen their sentence;
- Insanity is an example of this type of defense. A defense attorney cannot lie or encourage others to lie;
- The type of defense strategy that is used will depend on the type of evidence that the prosecution can bring to the case.
What Types of Criminal Defenses May Be Available?
There are numerous examples of criminal defenses that may be available to a defendant in their case, including:
- Duress or necessity;
What Is Self-Defense?
In general, the law allows a defendant to use the self-defense justification if:
- The defendant was not the aggressor;
- The reaction of the defendant was a reasonable response to the threat; and
- The defendant reasonably and actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
This defense can be challenging to prove, especially if conflicting witness testimony is presented. However, if self-defense can be proven, it absolves the defendant of criminal liability.
What Is an Alibi?
An alibi is something that the defendant shares that shows it was not possible for them to commit the crime they are charged with. If the jury believes the alibi, it provides them with a defense as well as an assertion of actual innocence.
In an ideal situation, an individual’s alibi would account for their whereabouts in a way that shows it would have been impossible for them to have committed the crime. An alibi can also create reasonable doubt regarding a defendant’s guilt.
What if I Prefer a Different Defense Strategy to the One My Attorney Wants to Use?
Based on their fiduciary duty, an individual’s attorney is supposed to obtain their client’s support as much as possible. During a criminal trial, the lawyer is the individual who is in charge, as held by the Federal Supreme Court.
Before a trial, however, a client should raise any concerns they have regarding a case. If a client is truly unhappy with the way their lawyer is directing their case, the client may request a new lawyer if their lawyer is a public defender, or they can hire a new lawyer.
However, it is important to note that the circumstances must be very severe for a court to assign a defendant a new public defender. Even though the attorney is supposed to make the tactical decisions regarding their case, the client is the individual whose fate is being decided. Therefore, they absolutely have the right to voice their concerns.
Should I Get Legal Advice?
If you are in any kind of legal trouble, it is important to consult with a criminal lawyer as soon as you can. Your lawyer will have to make many tactical decisions regarding your case.
However, the more you can understand about the process, the better you can help with your defense. The sooner you consult with a lawyer, the more time they will have to create the best defense possible for your case.