Peter Blair | February 6, 2023 | Criminal Defense
A criminal defense attorney is a lawyer who specializes in defending people charged with crimes. Their job is to protect people from criminal convictions and minimize jail time.
If you’re charged with a crime, a criminal defense attorney may be the only person on your side. It’s scary to face jail time, but a lawyer can help you navigate the court process and tell you what to expect. Plus, people who hire a criminal defense lawyer are more likely to have a better outcome than a pro se litigant.
Depending on your charges, a lawyer may not be cheap. However, they are usually worth it. It’s better to spend the money and win your case than to regret not hiring a lawyer from your jail cell.
What Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Do For Me in California?
A defense attorney will defend you when you are charged with a crime. In California, crimes are divided into misdemeanors, felonies, or wobblers. Depending on the severity of the crime, you might be facing a small fine or significant jail time.
Either way, a criminal conviction can impact other areas of your life, like limiting job prospects, housing, and your ability to own a firearm, vote, or get government loans. A defense attorney will mitigate these consequences by doing the following things.
Give You Legal Advice and Explain the Law
When you first meet with your criminal defense lawyer, they will explain your charges. This includes explaining the law and the potential penalties if you are convicted.
Most lawyers will hear your story and predict the likely outcome. If they are an experienced attorney, they will have seen similar cases and have a good understanding of how it might all shake out. They will identify potential defenses and make a plan of action for defending you.
Investigate and Collect Evidence
Under California Penal Code 1054.1, the prosecutor must turn over certain evidence to the defendant before trial. Your lawyer will study the evidence and also conduct an independent investigation into your case.
This may include:
- Locating witnesses and taking statements
- Procuring video footage
- Taking crime scene photos
- Requesting and examining medical records
The lawyer will use this evidence to build your defense and prepare for trial.
File Pretrial Motions
Lawyers will file pretrial motions on your behalf. Pretrial motions are requests made to the judge before a trial. They can happen anytime between when a defendant is charged with a crime and when the jury is selected at trial.
Pretrial motions include bond motions, motions to suppress, motions to compel, and motions to exclude evidence from trial.
Negotiate With the Prosecutor For a Plea Deal
The prosecution offers a plea deal in almost every case. Even if you aren’t interested in pleading guilty, your lawyer must relay any offers made by the prosecutor. If you want to plead guilty, your criminal defense lawyer can negotiate a more favorable agreement on your behalf.
Argue Your Case To a Jury
If you have a trial, your lawyer will argue your case to the jury. You won’t have to say anything unless you decide to testify.
Your defense attorney will:
- Select a jury
- Question witnesses
- Object to inadmissible evidence
- Make an opening and closing statement to the jury
Defense lawyers are trained to argue at trials, so it is best to let them lead and follow their advice.
Ask For a Lenient Sentence
If you are convicted, your lawyer will ask the court for a lenient sentence. They will bring up mitigating facts and highlight your good character. This may include calling witnesses to testify about you, discussing your work and contribution to society, acknowledging any family support, and explaining why you aren’t a danger to society.
Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer If I’m Guilty?
Yes. You should hire a lawyer even if you are technically guilty.
Under the California Penal Code, the prosecution bears the burden of proof. They must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Until then, you are presumed to be innocent.
Even if you are guilty, that doesn’t mean the government can prove it. They may not have enough evidence, or the evidence might be inadmissible. Plus, you might have a technical defense that you don’t know about.
A San Diego criminal defense lawyer can help prepare a defense and get you a better outcome, even if you are guilty.
Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer
While the police are responsible for enforcing the law and maintaining order, they are also held to a high standard of conduct and are subject to oversight and discipline if they violate the law or department policies. If you believe your rights have been violated by the police and you need help, contact a San Diego criminal defense attorney.