In criminal law, the state brings the case against the defendant. These cases are aptly entitled with titles such as “State of New York v. Williams” or “The People of the State of California v. Smith.” The penalties in criminal law typically concentrate on punishment and rehabilitation of the offender. Civil law varies in that an individual can bring a case against another individual in hopes of reimbursement for financial loss or retribution.
In criminal cases, the plaintiff (which is the state) is represented by a prosecutor, and a criminal defense lawyer represents the defendant. Keep in mind that any individual accused of a crime has the privilege to be represented in court. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one. Some cases go to a jury trial, a judge only hears some, and others are pleaded out.
Each state varies in criminal law codes and statutes. For example, a state where the death penalty is permitted will have different sentencing guidelines for capital murder than a state where the death penalty is prohibited. Another example would be a discrepancy in sentencing guidelines for states with varying marijuana laws.
What is “Accelerated Rehabilitation”?
Some state criminal systems offer a program to give offenders a second chance and avoid criminal charges. They are typically included under the pre-trial intervention programs known as diversionary programs.
Eligible individuals charged with a crime can usually get the charges dismissed upon completing the probationary period (usually 1-2 years). This permits the individual to bypass standard legal penalties like criminal fines and jail sentences.
These programs also save the courts time and resources. They are often abbreviated as “AR” and can go by various names in different states.
What is a Defense Strategy in Criminal Law?
A defense strategy in criminal law is like a game plan for striking the offense. It generally starts with ensuring that the defendant and attorney know the charges’ full nature.
It is essential that the defense:
- Address each charge;
- Knows what elements make up the charges;
- Knows what evidence is required to refute/stick the charges; and
- Knows what law controls the charges.
For instance, if the defendant has been charged with trespassing and grand theft auto, the defense must answer each charge. The elements for trespass are different from grand theft auto, so the defense needs to understand what evidence can support/refute those elements.
For trespass, the defendant must have known that the land belonged to someone else, but if the defense attorney can demonstrate that the defendant did not know and there is no way he could have known, it can weaken the trespass charge.
Everyone who stands accused of a crime is assumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
The defense must develop a plan to safeguard the defendant’s innocence by doing the following:
- Applying relevant regulations to the defendant’s case;
- Coming up with defense theories as to why the defendant is innocent;
- Examining discovery and making sure the case has ample proof in support of the defendant;
- Participating in plea bargaining, if required;
- Having a real argument for the defendant; and
- Efficiently answering sentencing pronouncements, such as asking for probation rather than jail time.
If the defendant does not work with their state-provided defense lawyer for whatever reason, they may be able to ask the judge to appoint new counsel or hire their own lawyer. While the judge has the right not to replace the defendant’s public defender, the defendant has the right to replace their public defender with a private criminal defense lawyer. It is essential to remember that you cannot pick your public defender, and one is allocated to you at the court’s discretion.
How is a Defense Strategy Formed?
You and your criminal defense lawyer work together when you form your defense strategy. This process usually arises when the attorney uncovers what evidence the prosecution has along with your version of the event.
You should always tell your attorney the whole true story so they can assist you satisfactorily. A defense strategy is created when you and your attorney fit together the interpretation of events that is more likely to have a fair outcome for you. For instance, you are not guilty because you acted in self-defense. It is up to the lawyer and you to create the most legally helpful, accurate version of events relevant to the case and consistent with physical proof.
Are There Other Reasons to Tell the Truth to My Lawyer?
Yes. The truth might indicate that you are guilty, but only of a less-serious offense. If the defendant fibs and insists on total innocence and the evidence is against them, the attorney can’t arrive at a real plea bargain or ask the jury to convict on the lesser offense.
A defendant’s honest tale might indicate facts that suggest such a result. The defense lawyer can also use such facts to argue for minimum punishments if you are convicted. For instance, the defendant was tricked into committing the crime.
What Kind of Defense Strategies are there?
Every defense will be different based on the details of the case. However, most defenses will fall into one of three categories:
- Denial: the defendant will plead that they are entirely innocent. Such defenses utilize alibis and the fact that a jury must be beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a defendant.
- Admission: the defendant will concede that some facts cited by the prosecution are true, but the outcome is separate from the prosecution’s beliefs. For instance, if fingerprints are present at the scene of a robbery, an admission defense would say that the defendant was indeed at the scene but that the defendant was a customer, not a criminal.
- Confession: the defendant admits to guilt, but there may be mitigating factors that might lessen the sentence. Insanity is an example of such defense. Remember that the defense lawyer cannot lie, nor can the defense lawyer motivate others to lie. The defense strategy will rely on the evidence that the prosecution can bring to the case.
What If I Prefer a Different Defense Strategy to the One My Attorney Wants to Use?
The lawyer, via fiduciary duty, is supposed to gather the client’s approval as much as possible. The lawyer is in charge during the trial, as ruled by the Federal Supreme Court. Before the trial, though, the client should raise their apprehensions about the case. Suppose the client is truly dissatisfied with how the lawyer handles the case. In that case, the client may ask for another lawyer if the current lawyer is a public defender or hire a new lawyer.
However, keep in mind that circumstances must be very bad for a court to assign a new public defender to a criminal defendant who cannot afford to hire a new lawyer. Although the criminal attorney is expected to make the tactical decisions, the client is whose fate is being decided and has the right to voice their concerns.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Criminal Law Issues?
If you have been charged with a crime, you should immediately speak with a criminal defense attorney. While the consequences of a criminal conviction can be strict, an experienced attorney will be able to advise you of your rights, put together a defense strategy, and represent your best interests in court.