Criminal defense is a practice used in the United States to defend individuals or organizations that have been accused of committing a crime. Criminal defense is intended to uphold the premise that people and organizations are innocent until proven guilty. Lawyers that specialize in criminal defense may also be able to assist individuals that have committed a crime in obtaining the best possible outcome.
Importance of Criminal Defense
All of the individuals and organizations that are accused of a crime are prosecuted by the government. Depending on the crime and the location where it was committed, the federal or state government may prosecute the accused. Since the resources available to government agencies often far exceed the resources available to defendants, criminal defense is imperative for keeping criminal proceedings fair. Criminal defense attorneys have extensive knowledge of the law, and are experts at making sure that none of a defendant’s rights are violated.
Criminal Defense Process Overview
A criminal defense lawyer typically follows a certain process in order to ensure that all of the facts are gathered prior to defending a person or entity that stands accused of a crime. Depending on the crime, criminal defense lawyers may interview witnesses, obtain copies of medical or financial records, and seek to obtain copies of surveillance tapes or other footage of the alleged crime. Once all of the facts and available evidence has been gathered, criminal defense lawyers will work together with the defendant to organize a case.
Building a Case
An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to review all of the evidence and advise the defendant on the best course of action to take. In some cases, this may mean a jury trial, while in others a settlement or a plea bargain may be more desirable. An attorney will review the differences in the actions and consult with the defendant about the most likely outcomes based on each scenario.
Outcome of Case
If the outcome of the case is favorable for the defendant, the criminal defense attorney is usually considered to be finished with the case. If the outcome of the case was unfavorable for the defendant, criminal defense attorneys may appeal the decision and request further legal proceedings. If a defendant is found not guilty of charges, the defendant cannot be tried again for the same crime. This guarantee against being tried twice for the same crime is a constitutional right that is commonly known as double jeopardy.
Types of Crimes
There are three main classifications for crimes: felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. The classification of the crime is determined by state legislators in most cases, and takes into account the severity of the crime and the impact on others. Infractions are the most minor type of crime, and are typically punished with fines. Misdemeanors are more serious and can be punishable by up to a year in jail as well as fines, probation, community service, and restitution. Felonies are the most severe type of crimes and can be punishable by imprisonment up to life sentencing as well as hefty fines and in rare cases even the death penalty.
Corporation Criminal Defense
When a business or corporation requires criminal defense, it is often on charges of white collar crimes such as fraud or tax evasion. Businesses may also be accused of violating regulations, such as environmental restrictions. Criminal defense for businesses may become highly complex, so a lawyer that is experienced in defending organizations against these types of accusations should be sought.
Criminal defense lawyers may defend individuals that stand accused of committing a variety of crimes, including:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Drug dealing
- Drug possession
- Sex crimes
- Violence or fights
Types of Criminal Defense
Criminal defense attorneys may use a variety of defenses to challenge evidence that is brought forth by the prosecution. Insanity defense and coercion are two types of criminal defense that often result in dropped charges if insanity or coercion can be proven. However, it may be difficult to prove these factors.
Affirmative defense in which evidence is shown to be false is commonly used by criminal defense attorneys. In many cases, some of the evidence is accepted as factual, while other aspects of evidence are shown to be false. This type of defense is often used to lessen sentencing or prove innocence in a situation that would otherwise be considered a crime.
Other types of criminal defense which may be used include:
- Statute of limitations
- Consent by victim
- Abandonment of the scene prior to the crime
“Criminal Defense Law.” HG.org. HG.org Worldwide Legal Directories, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 May 2014. <http://www.hg.org/criminal-defense.html>
“State Criminal Justice Network.” National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 May 2014. <http://www.nacdl.org/scjn/>