Role of a Criminal defence attorney. What a Criminal Defence Attorney Does

Criminal defence attorneys are vital players in the justice system.

They serve as protectors, advocates, and advisors for those accused of crimes, ensuring that the legal rights of the defendant are upheld throughout the legal process.

Criminal defence attorneys play a multifaceted role in the legal system.

Here’s a breakdown of their key responsibilities:

Saul Goodman image, a Criminal Defence lawyer
What a Criminal Defence Attorney Does

Role of a Criminal defence attorney

1. Case Assessment and Investigation

Firstly, A criminal defence attorney begins thoroughly assessing the case, examining all the evidence, and investigating the circumstances surrounding the crime.

They may interview witnesses, gather expert testimonies, and develop an understanding of the prosecution’s case to build a strong defense strategy.

2. Legal Advice and Strategy

They provide legal advice to their clients regarding their rights and the legal proceedings. They also advise on the best course of action, whether it’s to plead guilty, accept a plea deal, or go to trial. The strategy is tailored to the specifics of the case and the client’s best interests.

3. Plea Bargaining and Negotiation

Defense attorneys often engage in plea bargaining with the prosecutor.

a criminal defense attorney
Plea Bargaining and Negotiation[ photo courtesy of]
This involves negotiating for a lesser charge or a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, which can be beneficial in cases where the evidence against the defendant is strong.

READ ALSO: Understanding the Degrees of Murder: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Degree Murder.

4. Trial Representation

If the case goes to trial, the defense attorney represents the defendant in court.

They present opening and closing statements, cross-examine witnesses, and challenge the prosecution’s evidence, all while advocating for the defendant’s innocence or a fair judgment.

5. Sentencing

In the event of a conviction, the defence attorney represents the client during the sentencing phase.

More Importantly, they aim to achieve the most favourable outcome by presenting mitigating factors, such as the defendant’s background and the circumstances of the offense, to reduce the severity of the sentence.

6. Appeals and Post-Conviction

If the trial results in an unfavorable outcome, the defense attorney may assist with filing appeals or other post-conviction relief efforts, arguing for legal errors that could have affected the verdict or the fairness of the trial.

These roles are essential in ensuring that the legal process is just and that the rights of the accused are protected throughout the judicial proceedings.

What qualifications are required to become a criminal defense attorney?

To become a criminal defense attorney, one must complete a series of educational and professional steps:
A picture of a criminal defender
What qualifications are required to become a criminal defense attorney?[PHOTO COURTESY OF MS &JD]

1. Bachelor’s Degree

The first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.

While it’s not necessary to major in criminal justice or criminology, these subjects can provide a useful background.

2. Law School and Juris Doctor (JD) Degree

Attend law school and earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree.

Law school typically takes three years to complete and involves intensive study of various legal principles, including criminal law.

3. Pass the Bar Examination

Upon graduating from law school, aspiring attorneys must pass the bar examination in the state where they wish to practice.

It tests knowledge of state-specific and general legal principles.

4. Gain Legal Experience

After passing the bar, it’s important to gain legal experience.

This can be done through internships, clerkships, or working as a legal assistant or paralegal.

Experience in criminal law, specifically, is valuable for those looking to become criminal defense attorneys.

5. Obtain a License to Practice Law

Finally, to practice law, one must obtain a license from the state bar association.

This involves meeting the character and fitness requirements set by the state and maintaining ethical standards throughout one’s career.

6. Continuing Legal Education

Even after becoming a licensed attorney, ongoing education is required to stay current with the latest legal developments and to maintain the license to practice law.

These qualifications ensure that criminal defense attorneys are well-prepared to take on the responsibilities of defending those accused of crimes and upholding the justice system.

When is someone said to be a Criminal

An act or omission is typically considered criminal when it fulfills several key elements as defined by law.

A criminal standing with his attorney
When is someone said to be a Criminal [PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY AND STATE NEWYORK]
These elements include:

1. Criminal Act (Actus Reus)

This is the physical action or conduct that is prohibited by law.

It can be an active deed or, in some cases, a failure to act (omission) when there’s a legal duty to do so.

2. Criminal Intent (Mens Rea)

The mental state of the person committing the act is also considered.

It refers to the intention to commit a crime or the knowledge that one’s actions are likely to lead to a criminal outcome.

3. Concurrence

The criminal act must be accompanied by the criminal intent.

Both elements must occur together for an offense to be considered criminal.

4. Causation

For certain crimes, the act must cause a specific result, such as harm to another person or property damage.

The prosecution must prove that the defendant’s actions caused this result.

5. Harm

Many crimes require proof of harm, which could be physical injury to a person, damage to property, or a loss of some sort.

6. Attendant Circumstances

Some crimes require specific circumstances to be present, such as the crime occurring in a particular location or involving a specific category of victims.

Lastly, when these elements are present and prohibited by law, an act or omission can be classified as criminal.

Why criminal defence attorneys defend criminals.

Why criminal defense attorneys defend criminals.


Criminal defence attorneys play a critical role in the justice system.

Finally, they ensure that every individual receives a fair trial and that the rights enshrined in the law are not just theoretical but are practically applied.


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