What Does a Criminal Lawyer Do?

A criminal lawyer is a licensed attorney who takes on cases with potentially life-changing ramifications. This heady work involves assessing the wrongdoings of an individual and affixing the appropriate punishment, whether it is probation, fine, jail time or some other form of community service.

In most cases, criminal defense attorneys are able to negotiate deals with the prosecutor on behalf of their client. This helps to alleviate clogged court calendars and overcrowded jails.

Criminal defense attorneys research the case, communicate with law enforcement and/or other crime investigators, perform personal investigations and present exculpatory evidence. They also spend much of their time reviewing documentation to determine if the case can be won on constitutional grounds due to illegal conduct by the government.

One of the biggest challenges of this career is educating defendants about the legal consequences of their actions. This is especially important since some people without a lawyer make seemingly harmless statements that come back to haunt them at trial or when negotiating a plea bargain.

For the most part, criminal lawyers work in small firms or independently and tend to deal with clients in a limited geographic area. This makes their work very different than that of civil attorneys who often work in large firms that serve national or international corporations. Criminal lawyers may find that they have to build ongoing relationships with their clients, whereas civil attorneys typically only represent them on an irregular basis. They are also among the first to spot loopholes or flaws in the system that need to be addressed so that even hardened criminals can have a fair trial and keep their freedom.

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