Individuals who have been arrested or accused of unlawful conduct need expert legal assistance to protect their rights and help them navigate complex and potentially perilous state and federal criminal justice systems.
Experienced and talented criminal lawyers guide, assist, and protect their clients as they face all the issues surrounding the allegations being made against them, including criminal investigations, arrests and criminal charges, constitutional rights, defenses, negotiations and plea bargains, sentencing, appeals, and post-trial issues.
Offenses Requiring A Criminal Attorney
- Alcohol crimes (e.g., DUI)
- Crimes against children
- Crimes against justice (e.g., contempt of court or perjury)
- Crimes against a person (e.g., assault and battery or domestic violence)
- Curfew laws
- Cyber crimes
- Drug charges
- Fraud and financial crimes (e.g., identity theft)
- Property crimes (e.g., burglary or vandalism)
- Public safety violations
- Sex crimes
Everyone Is Innocent Until Proven Guilty
In the United States, everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. An arrest does not mean that a crime was committed. It is only proof that a law enforcement officer, such as a police officer, federal agent, or a judge, believes that probable cause exists that a person committed a crime.
Probable cause is a standard intended to limit the power of policing authorities. They cannot simply arrest anyone for any reason. They need a factual basis and evidence to justify their decision to arrest. Regardless, even if an officer does have probable cause to make an arrest, the state still must prove their case and win a conviction before a determination is made as to whether a crime was committed.
A criminal defense lawyer has many tools to challenge both the procedural and factual basis on which the state is making their case. A defense attorney can also provide assistance before charges have been filed, such as if someone believes they are being actively investigated.
The Constitutional Rights of Criminal Defendants
The government has compelling constitutional duties when attempting to prosecute someone for a crime. The Constitution, and especially the Bill of Rights, sets out very clear restrictions on how authorities can treat criminal defendants. Many cases are dismissed at very early stages because the state failed to behave in accordance with these rules.
For that reason, it’s incredibly important for defendants to choose a defense attorney who is steeped in constitutional law and meticulous about reviewing documentation and the case history for potential irregularities.
The government is not permitted to make unlawful searches and seizures. Any evidence obtained without a search warrant and/or probable cause that a crime has been committed will be thrown out by the court, which may doom the prosecution’s chance of winning a conviction.
Defendants and witnesses are under no obligation to incriminate themselves. If asked a question that could potentially put them in legal jeopardy, they are entitled to decline to answer. A law enforcement agent who coerces an individual to self-incriminate, such as through the use of violence or threats, has violated that person’s Fifth Amendment rights and any statements or admissions made would be inadmissible in court.
If a criminal case goes to trial, defendants have the right to confront and cross-examine any accusers or witnesses alleging they committed an unlawful act. The Sixth Amendment also requires law authorities to reveal the nature of the accusation being made.
An experienced criminal lawyer begins their work by reviewing all the charges, documentation, and evidence to analyze them for Constitutional issues that may undermine the state’s case.
Next, they examine the prosecution’s burden of proof to determine what must be established to win a conviction. They can then begin preparing a range of legal defenses, including affirmative defenses, which are evidentiary findings that would automatically negate criminal liability even if the defendant was found to have committed the acts they were alleged to.
- Entrapment (when law enforcement induces someone to commit a crime)
- Mental illness
- Necessity (it is not a crime to destroy property if it was necessary to flee an inherently dangerous situation, such as breaking a window to escape a fire)
- Respondeat superior (a situation in which the defendant was acting under the control of someone else)
After reviewing the evidence, constitutional issues, and defenses, a criminal lawyer will analyze potential sentencing issues with an eye towards minimizing the defendant’s exposure to serious penalties.
Misdemeanors and Felonies
Definitions vary by jurisdiction, but generally a misdemeanor is a criminal offense that is punishable by a year or less in jail. Felonies are more serious crimes that can result in lengthier sentences and the temporary or permanent loss of some rights, such as the right to vote, drive a car, or own a gun.
Many states have so-called “wobbler” felonies. These are crimes that are charged as felonies but which can possibly be reduced to a misdemeanor. Minors under the age of 18, defendants that acted in self-defense, and first-time offenders are often granted wobbler reductions.
A skilled defense lawyer is aware of situations appropriate for wobbler status and will push for a sentence to be reduced to a year or less like a misdemeanor. They can even ask for a felony to be reclassified as a misdemeanor at a later date, which is very important to many defendants because most felonies cannot be expunged from their record.
Choose A Criminal Attorney Who Will Protect Your Rights
Facing a criminal charge is stressful, not only because of the severe consequences of being found guilty, but because of the complex procedures involved.
Defendants who rely on often inexperienced and overburdened public defenders or who try to defend themselves (called a “pro se” defense) can end up facing steeper fines and longer sentences than a dedicated and knowledgeable criminal lawyer could have achieved. Or they may face convictions that could and should have been thrown out of court from the start.
These matters are best left to the experts. A skilled criminal lawyer finds weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, negotiates aggressively on behalf of their client, and ensures all proper procedures are followed.