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What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do? Can They Help Me?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do? Can They Help Me?

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How Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help Texas Defendants

When someone in Texas is charged with a criminal offense, one of the first things that they should do is hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Some people may already have a lawyer on retainer while others will have to seek out a lawyer after they have been arrested. In either case, the person charged with the offense may be wondering, what exactly do these defense attorneys do? They may also wonder how exactly their lawyer can help them.


The Initial Consultation

The first step to hiring a lawyer is to meet with an attorney in person. Many lawyers offer a free consultation with potential clients.

At the consultation, the defendant can explain the charges that they are facing and they may also ask any questions that they may have.

The attorney can provide advice and answers at this stage. However, they will not be able to offer detailed assistance and representation until they are officially hired. Here are some of the things that a lawyer can do at the initial consultation:

  • Explain the nature of the charges the defendant is facing
  • Explain their experience handling similar cases
  • Explain what they can do if they are hired
  • Answer questions
  • Explain their fees and costs

Once a defendant has this information, they may decide to hire the attorney. If they don’t feel that the lawyer is right for their needs, they may decide to consult with other attorneys. Once a lawyer has been hired, the next step can proceed.

The Arraignment

After hiring a lawyer, the next step of the court process is the arraignment. At the arraignment, the client’s attorney will hear the official reading of the charges against the client. Then, they will be allowed to enter a plea on behalf of their client. The pleas that they can enter include:

  • Guilty – If the client wishes to accept responsibility for their charges, their attorney can plead guilty on their behalf. Even if the client plans to accept the charges, the attorney will usually not enter a guilty plea to allow more time for negotiation.
  • No Contest – If the client wants to accept the penalties for their charge without entering a plea of guilty, their attorney may plead no contest, or nolo contendere, on their behalf. This may help the client be protected from civil suits at a later date.
  • Not Guilty – Many lawyers will enter this plea on behalf of their clients at the arraignment. This will allow the client to go to trial or negotiate a plea bargain at a later time.

Once the plea has been entered and recorded, the client and the attorney can began working on the defense strategy.

The Preparation Phase

In many cases, an attorney will enter a not guilty plea for their client so that they can began preparing for a trial or plea bargain. The preparation phase is one of the busiest times for both the lawyer and the attorney. The attorney can help their client arrange bail and explain the conditions of bond that the client must abide by. If the client is incarcerated at this stage, the attorney can meet with them at the county jail.

During the preparation phase, the attorney will complete many tasks, including:

  • Collecting Evidence – The attorney may ask to view police reports and conduct interviews with witnesses to collect evidence to support the defense of his or her client. Their objective is to use this evidence to create a strong defense that will result in a verdict of not guilty or help secure a favorable plea bargain.
  • Reviewing The Prosecution’s Evidence – By law, the criminal defense attorney is allowed to review any evidence that the prosecution will use in court. This can include witness statements, police reports and physical items. This will help the attorney decide if a trial or a plea bargain is a better option.
  • Jury Selection – If the client is going to trial, the attorneys for the prosecution and the defense will be allowed to review the potential jurors that will be present at the trial. Each attorney is allowed to ask the court to remove certain jurors. They are allowed to ask for certain jurors to be removed for specific reasons, such as potential bias, but they also have a limited number of challenges to ask certain jurors to be removed from the jury pool without a specific reason.
  • Negotiation – During the preparation phase, the defense attorney may negotiate with the prosecution. For example, they may study any offers that the prosecution provides. If the prosecution offers a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, the lawyer can advise his client to accept an offer or reject it for a better offer.
  • Paperwork – Any legal case requires a huge amount of paperwork. The attorney and his or her legal assistants will handle these tasks during preparation while providing updates to their client.

After the preparation phase, the attorney and client can move on to the trial or plea bargain phase.

The Disposition

During a trial, an attorney will represent their client in court. This means that they will call witnesses, cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and do their best to make sure their client gets a fair trial. They may object to certain statements from the prosecuting attorney and convene with the judge to discuss the case. If all goes well, the jury will return a verdict of not guilty. Even if a guilty verdict is returned, the lawyer’s arguments may influence the judge to return a lighter sentence.

If the client wishes to enter a plea bargain, their attorney will enter this plea to the court. In most cases, this will result in a less severe sentence, even if the client is deemed guilty of the charges.

After the case, the attorney can help the client file appeals for a new trial, discover new evidence and advise the client on their next steps.

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