The Importance of an Attorney
Defendants have civil rights to ensure they are given an opportunity to argue their side of the case. Safeguards, however, are useless without someone to guarantee or police them. This is where the defense lawyer comes in.
The defense lawyer presents all of the defendant’s evidence to counter the prosecutor’s arguments and challenges all questionable assertions of facts by the prosecutor to ensure that a high burden of proof is met.
Furthermore, the criminal defense lawyer challenges procedural errors and may seek to have charges dismissed because of unreliable evidence or testimony. Without proper defense, a defendant may be convicted in case where it would have otherwise been avoidable.
It’s important for a defendant to obtain the help of a defense lawyer as early as possible.
We cannot stress enough the importance of retaining counsel as early as possible, after an arrest. Here are a few examples of how a good criminal defense lawyer can help a defendant in the early stages that may not be possible as the case progresses:
- The defense lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor to have charges reduced, deferred or even dropped through something called “early intervention“.
- The defense lawyer can seek the release of the defendant through bail, ask for bail reduction, or release on “OR”, allowing the defendant to better assist in the preparation of a defense.
- The defense lawyer can inform the defendant of his rights at the outset, and help ensure those rights are protected (such as the right to remain silent).
- In addition, the defense lawyer is able to devise different strategies and arguments that can be used in the case.
- The defense lawyer can work with the defendant and witnesses to understand the defendant’s version of events and to determine the appropriate defense (alibi, self-defense, misidentification, etc).
- The defense lawyer can provide advice on what plea to enter, whether to accept a plea agreement, whether to waive a jury trial, and whether the defendant should testify on his own behalf.
- The defense lawyer can determine which witnesses to call and how they should be examined.
- The defense lawyer can determine which potential jurors might be biased against the defendant and seek to remove them from the jury panel.
Criminal Defense’s Role
In an adversarial judicial system, there are essentially three components:
Two opposing sides:
- The prosecution,
- The defense
And a third, neutral side:
- The judge,
- The jury (in cases that go to trial)
Duties of the Criminal Defense
The primary duties of the defense in the criminal judicial system are as follows:
Advocate for the Defendant
The basic duty of the defense counsel, as an officer of the court, is to serve as the accused’s lawyer by advocating with courage and devotion. In essence the criminal attorney should render quality, effective representation in the defendant’s best interest, no matter how small or large the perceived seriousness, or finality of penalties of the case.
If a defendant is found guilty, the defense attorney prepares for sentencing and offers mitigating circumstances to the sentencing judge. For instance, in cases where the defendant has no criminal history, or any other mitigating circumstances, the defense attorney can make a case for the lightest sentence.
Researcher of the Case
When the defense attorney is hired, he spends time reviewing the case. He requests all the evidence, reviews all the evidence, reads the police report, looks at the background of those involved, among others. The best attorney may study past cases to find precedent to strengthen his case. Defense attorneys can even hire their own investigators to find evidence or witnesses that help the defendant’s side.
Strategist of the Case
A principal role of the defense attorney is to determine the best potential defenses out of an array of probabilities that lead to the facts of the case. More times than not, a case can be argued in a multitude of ways. The best attorney will see all options and choose the one that will be most effective.
Advisor to the Defendant
Throughout the process, the defense attorney gives the best advice that leads to the most favorable outcome. He also advises his client how to behave, the client’s appearance, and when to speak while in court.
Negotiator with the Court
Sometimes the defense attorney can make the argument to the prosecution that there is not enough evidence for a case. Other times, the defense can soften the charges talking to the court. Other times, a defense attorney will try to strike a favorable ‘plea bargain’, when all else fails. In this case, the defense attorney will work with the prosecutor to come up with a mutually acceptable agreement. A good defense attorney will aggressively negotiate the best possible terms for his client.
Reform and Improve the System
Defense counsel should seek to reform and improve the administration of criminal justice. When inadequacies or injustices in the substantive or procedural law come to defense counsel’s attention, he or she should stimulate efforts for remedial action.
Abide the Code of Conduct
Defense counsel should not intentionally misrepresent matters of fact or law to the court. Defense counsel is subject to standards of conduct stated in statutes, rules, decisions of courts, and codes, canons, or other standards of professional conduct. Defense counsel has no duty to execute any directive of the accused which does not comport with law or such standards. Defense counsel is the professional representative of the accused, not the accused’s alter ego.
Ethics of the Lawyer-Client Relationship
These are the guidelines that the criminal defense lawyer owes the client, once retained for representation:
Establishment of Relationship
The defense lawyer should establish a relationship of trust and confidence with the accused. Defense counsel should explain the necessity of full disclosure of all facts known to the client for an effective defense, and defense should clearly explain counsel’s obligation of confidentiality.
Keep Client Informed
Defense counsel should keep the client informed of the developments in the case and the progress of preparing the defense and should promptly comply with reasonable requests for information. Defense counsel should explain developments in the case to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
Investigate the Case Thoroughly
The defense lawyer should conduct an investigation promptly, and explore all possible avenues leading to facts provided in discovery, relevant to the case. It is the duty of the criminal defense lawyer to investigate thoroughly regardless of any admissions or statements of facts constituting guilt or otherwise.
Advising the Accused
After investigating fully the facts and the law, the defense attorney should advise the accused with complete candor concerning all aspects of the case, including probable outcomes. The defense lawyer should not intentionally mistake the risks, hazards, or prospects of the case to influence the defendant’s decisions to plea.
Defense counsel should caution the client to avoid communication about the case with witnesses, except with the approval of counsel, to avoid any contact with jurors or prospective jurors, and to avoid either the reality or the appearance of any other improper activity.
Control the Direction of the Case
Certain decisions relating to the conduct of the case are ultimately for the defendant and others are ultimately for the defense. Some primary decisions which are to be made by the accused after full consultation with the defense attorney include:
- what pleas to enter;
- whether to accept a plea agreement;
- whether to waive jury trial;
- whether to testify in his or her own behalf; and
- whether to appeal.
Strategic decisions should be made by the defense lawyer after consultation with the client. Decisions like: which witnesses to call, Conducting cross-examination, jury Voir Dire, trial motions, which evidence to introduce, and other motions.
If a disagreement on tactical matters between the defense attorney and the client arise, The defense lawyer should make a record of the circumstances, and the disclose the conclusion reached, in a manner that protects the confidentiality of the lawyer-client relationship.
Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges of any kind in Los Angeles, or the Southern California area, you need to hire an attorney who has long-standing professional relationships with the Judges and District Attorneys, as well as proven track record. Don’t panic. We’re here to help. Get a FREE consultation.
Call Us: 310-274-6529
Seppi Esfandi is an expert in Criminal Law who has over 17 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.