When you’re charged with a crime, deciding on a lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make. After all, your lawyer will be your eyes, ears, voice, and most avid defender against the government. Plus, hiring a lawyer can be expensive.
It doesn’t matter if you are charged with a drug crime, sex crime, property crime, or something else. You need to make sure that you hire a good criminal defense lawyer instead of wasting time and money on someone who isn’t up for the job.
What Does a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?
A criminal defense attorney represents you in court. They speak on your behalf to the judge, the jury, and the prosecutors, and they accompany you to all hearings. This includes having a trial and questioning witnesses in the courtroom.
While many criminal defense lawyers are known for their demeanor in the courtroom, most criminal defense lawyers do the bulk of their work outside of court. This work includes:
- Investigating the case and collecting evidence
- Reviewing discovery provided by the prosecutor
- Filing bond and evidentiary motions
- Negotiating with prosecutors for dismissal or favorable plea deals
- Researching the law for novel legal issues
- Advising on immigration issues and other consequences stemming from a criminal conviction
A criminal defense lawyer who fails to prepare the case and do legwork outside of the courtroom is not going to be successful inside of the courtroom.
Best Qualities for a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Just because someone went to law school doesn’t mean they will make a good criminal defense lawyer. Criminal defense lawyers need to possess a very specific skill set to be successful in court. It’s different from other types of lawyers who primarily review contracts and rarely find themselves advocating in a courtroom.
Knowledge of the Criminal Law in your Area
Your criminal defense lawyer should have a strong understanding of the criminal law that applies in your case. It’s even better if they know how the law is applied in your specific jurisdiction. The reality is that different judges and prosecutors apply the law differently. A lawyer that is familiar with your jurisdiction, and has some level of comfort or familiarity with the judges and prosecutors, is in a better position to successfully defend you.
Excellent Communication Skills
Criminal defense lawyers must have excellent communication skills, and they should be able to communicate to a wide variety of audiences. They need to communicate clearly with you as their client and tell your story to the judge, jury, and prosecutor. Your lawyer speaks on your behalf, so it is important that they can communicate clearly and effectively without alienating the audience or causing confusion.
Some lawyers walk into court and wing it, but not the good ones. The best criminal defense lawyers are highly prepared for every scenario before they even step foot into the courtroom. That means having a nuanced understanding of all of the evidence and discovery, anticipating arguments made by the prosecution, and preparing to question witnesses.
Attention to Detail
A great lawyer pays close attention to detail, particularly defense attorneys. In a criminal case, defense attorneys try to poke holes in the government’s case. The best way to find these holes is to listen carefully to every single detail. If a lawyer only pays attention to the big picture, they risk missing the small yet incredibly important details that can change the outcome of the case.
Comfort Public Speaking
Your criminal defense attorney will need to speak in public, and they must be comfortable doing that. Most criminal defense lawyers love public speaking, but some are fearful of it. Your lawyer will need to speak to the judge in open court, to the prosecutor, and to a jury when they argue your case. If they aren’t comfortable with public speaking, then they won’t be effective at arguing on your behalf.
Ability to Persuade and Negotiate
At the end of the day, a criminal defense lawyer needs to be persuasive and a strong negotiator. They need to persuade the judge, the prosecutor, and the jury of your innocence. They may also negotiate with the prosecutor for a lighter sentence or favorable plea deal. If they are good, they might even be able to get the case dismissed. If a criminal defense lawyer isn’t persuasive, they aren’t going to be very good at their job.
Strong Decision-Making Skills
A criminal defense lawyer must have strong decision-making skills. They will advise you on your legal options and the best choice for you in the case. That means that they must understand how to make a good decision before giving you their opinion. If a lawyer has a history of making bad decisions then they will probably misadvise you, as well.
Discretion and Respect for Confidentiality
A good criminal defense attorney is discreet about their representation and has the utmost respect for confidentiality. You need to trust that your lawyer keeps your communications private and that they won’t reveal the private details of your case to others. Not only is it an ethical rule, but it’s also the foundation of a positive attorney-client relationship. A good criminal defense lawyer understands confidentiality and puts your privacy above all else.
Questions to Ask Your Criminal Defense Lawyer
Usually, you have an initial consultation before formally hiring a criminal defense lawyer, but it can be difficult to determine if the lawyer has the qualities of a good criminal defense lawyer from one short meeting.
There are a few questions that you should always ask your lawyer, and a few additional questions to get insight into whether or not they are the best lawyer for you.
- What work will you do on the case outside of court appearances?
- Have you defended clients against similar charges before? If so, what was the outcome?
- Do you regularly appear in this jurisdiction?
- How will you keep me updated about my case?
You should also feel free to ask the prospective lawyer for recommendations from past clients and take the initiative to read online reviews. When it comes to a criminal case, you usually need a lawyer ASAP, but that shouldn’t stop you from finding the right one.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer
You need a criminal defense lawyer if you’re serious about clearing your name. The average person isn’t privy to the court rules and criminal procedure. If you represent yourself, you may step on toes in the courtroom, delay the trial and miss important legal issues or objections.
You might have a good argument for your innocence, but chances are you won’t be able to make it effectively without a criminal defense lawyer. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer is the best way to increase your chances of winning and get a more favorable outcome.
At DiCindio Law, LLC, we are the premier choice for a criminal defense lawyer in Pennsylvania. Not only is Mike DiCindio an award-winning attorney, but he is also a former prosecutor with unparalleled insight into criminal court. He is consistently named a Top Lawyer and Super Lawyer because he delivers, and is prepared to discuss your criminal case during a free consultation.