A criminal lawyer is a type of lawyer who defends criminal defendants during trial. They are responsible for providing the defendant with legal advice, counsel, and representation during criminal trial.  

If a criminal defendant is unable to afford their own attorney, the state will provide a public defender for them. However, many criminal defense attorneys work separately from the state through a private criminal defense firm.

Unlike prosecutors, a criminal lawyer may become involved at a much earlier stage in the criminal justice process. They often begin providing legal services even before criminal charges have been formally filed against the suspect.

Some of the tasks that criminal defense lawyers routinely perform are:

  • Assisting suspects who have requested the presence of a lawyer during police interrogations and other procedures
  • Assisting suspects during critical pre-trial phases
  • Engaging in plea negotiations with the prosecutor, to obtain a reduced sentence or to have the charges dropped
  • Researching the facts and laws involved in the criminal case
  • Actively defending criminal suspects in court during trial
  • Raising defenses that may be available and advantageous for the defendant (such as self-defense, defense of property, etc.)
  • Interviewing key witnesses to obtain testimony
  • Filing for an appeal or retrial if available

Also, many criminal defense lawyers continue to work with a defendant until well after trial. This is because the client may often need legal assistance with post-trial issues such as parole or probation.

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What Does Criminal Lawyer Do?

A criminal lawyer will represent you against your charges brought by the prosecutor from the time of the arrest to trial and if any appeals. That is if the case goes that far. Sometimes the criminal defense lawyer can work to get the case dismissed or negotiate a favorable plea deal to reduce the charges.

A criminal defense lawyer can help you do the following:

  1. Reduce your criminal charge to a lesser offense or get the case dismissed
  2. Negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor
  3. Reduce the severity of the punishment or sentencing for the crime
  4. Reduce or remove jail time

How Do I Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Finding a good criminal defense lawyer can sometimes be challenging. In any criminal case, the defendant has the right to an attorney. However, if you have any specific criminal law issues, you may often want to choose your own criminal lawyer.

In such cases, the first step for success is learning how to find a lawyer. You will want to identify key issues that you think might be of importance during the criminal trial. You need to be able to inform your lawyer of the basic facts so that they can begin organizing a strong defense for you.

Also, in criminal law it is important to find someone who has experience working with the local prosecutors and the criminal court system. It would be very important to hire someone with many years of experience rather than someone right out of law school.

What are Some Ways to Find a Criminal Lawyer?

There are few different solutions for how to find criminal lawyer to help with your case.  You should understand that many traditional ways of finding a lawyer are being replaced by more modern routes like the Internet.

Knowing how to find a lawyer can take the guesswork out of your search. If you need advice on how to find a lawyer for criminal issues, here are a few different methods along with their pros and cons:

  • Phone Book: This is the most traditional way of contacting a lawyer. Many phone books include listings specifically for criminal lawyers. However, the selection here is getting more limited -- many criminal lawyers are favoring online listings on websites.
  • Personal References: Sometimes you can find a lawyer through a friend or personal contact who has worked with a lawyer before. The downside is that not every knows or has experience with a criminal lawyer.
  • Ads: A good percentage of lawyers who advertise through television or billboards are criminal lawyers. The problem with these is that there is often no way to research the lawyer’s background or performance in the past.
  • Online Services: Online services like LegalMatch.com are quickly becoming the preferred route for finding an attorney. While these are somewhat few in numbers, they are often allow for a more complete search of attorney backgrounds. Many lawyers are incorporating websites and e-mail into their practice.
  • Bail Bonds: Many bail bonds businesses can recommend criminal lawyers they work with.

What Questions Should I Ask the Criminal Lawyer?

There are many important questions you should ask the criminal defense lawyers before you hire them to represent you in a criminal defense case. Some important questions are:

  • Where did you attend law school?
  • How long have you been practicing criminal law?
  • Do you have experience working with the prosecutor?
  • Do you have experience in criminal trials?
  • What are your experiences with plea deals?
  • How familiar are you with the charges against me?
  • Have you represented someone with the same charges?

How Much Will a Criminal Lawyer Cost?

Criminal lawyers charge will either charge a flat fixed fee or hourly rate with a retainer. A retainer is an amount that is paid upfront and when the retainer is exhausted the lawyer will charge his standard hourly rate for anything he works on relating to your case.

Costs for hiring a criminal lawyer depends on the nature of the charges, experience of the lawyer, and how long the lawyer will think the case will be drawn out for. If a lawyer charges a flat fee, and the charge is a misdemeanor, expect to pay anywhere between $1,000-$3,000. If there is a possibility of trial, expect to pay between $3,000-$5,000.

If the charge is a felony, and the lawyer believes they may be able to receive a favorable settlement, the flat fee may range anywhere from $3,000-$6,000. However, if a felony trial seems inevitable, a flat fee ranging between $5,000-$8,000 is not uncommon. For murder or other charges where life in prison is possible, if a lawyer works on a flat fee, expect to pay well over $20,000 or more.

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Are Criminal Lawyers Required?

Criminal defense lawyers are not required and you can even represent yourself in your own criminal case. However, this is not recommended especially if your charges are severe and you face jail time. If you cannot afford an attorney, the state can appoint one for you.  

Even if you believe you have committed a crime and wish to plead guilty, it is extremely important to consult an experienced attorney before responding to any criminal prosecution. At the very minimum, a skilled attorney can ensure that the charges against you are appropriate given the facts of the case and advocate on your behalf to receive the lowest possible penalty.

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you are involved in any way with criminal charges, you may wish to contact a criminal justice lawyer as necessary. If you are facing criminal charges, a criminal defense attorney can help represent you in court.