How Can a Defense Attorney Help You?
Defense attorneys on TV often pull off miracles. They find the one scrap of exonerating evidence right at the last minute, rushing into the courtroom just as the judge is about to bang the gavel and sentence the innocent man to life in prison.
These heroics make for great viewing, but they don’t do much to show exactly what a defense attorney actually does. It doesn’t help that most TV and movies don’t focus on the defense attorneys, they focus on either the innocent person or, more often than not, the righteous and moral prosecutors trying to take down the big criminals.
This latter theme makes sense. It’s easier, after all, to make a hundred shows about one prosecutor and all their cases than a defense attorney. People also like to cheer on the legal system doing right and locking up the bad guys, instead of the legal system going after the wrong people and making it almost impossible to get away. There is the added benefit that in the real world, prosecutors usually do only go to trial over real criminals, and they usually do win (something like 90% of their cases).
However, if someone ever does end up needing a defense attorney, popular culture leaves them woefully unprepared to know exactly what qualities to look for.
To help those who might find themselves in this unfortunate position, I found an excellent list on the Flaherty Defense Firm that can help make this a little clearer.
Hear out your story and believe you: This is the first point where an attorney is useful. There’s a reason another word for attorney is “advocate.” They advocate for your side of the story, including all extenuating circumstances and far-fetched (though perhaps true) explanations.
Analyze the case: It’s likely you don’t know exactly what you are facing against a prosecutor. What are the different potential outcomes of a trial? What kind of punishment do you face? Is there a way to minimize that punishment? Only a trained attorney can tell you.
Suppress illegally obtained evidence: Following on the last point, a defense attorney can tell you whether some evidence was illegally obtained. They will know how to make this happen.
Negotiate with prosecutors: This is perhaps the most vital step since most cases don’t go to trial. Prosecutors are busy, and unless the crimes truly warrant the harshest penalties, they will likely be willing to negotiate if you plead guilty to a lesser crime.
Select a sympathetic jury: If your case does go to trial, the jury makes all the difference. A defense attorney knows how to pick out a jury that is most likely to be on your side.
Create doubt in prosecutor’s arguments: This final point is the one most of us are familiar with. The defense attorney poking holes in the prosecutor’s case. All it takes is a little doubt to set someone free since you have to be “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
I hope this list helps those who need it. Remember, the law isn’t what it looks like on TV. Finding a good attorney who can help you in the above six ways will help no matter what your situation.