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When Should You Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being under investigation for a crime or charged with a crime can be a frightening and confusing ordeal. That is why you will want the aid of a criminal defense lawyer to defend you throughout the criminal justice process.

Oftentimes, many people are unsure of exactly when they need to call upon criminal law attorneys. Other times, a defendant might not be able to afford a criminal defense lawyer. In these instances, the defendant will be assigned a public defender. Whatever your situation may be, a criminal defense lawyer is critical if you intend to dispute criminal charges.

Why is a Criminal Defense Lawyer Important?

Criminal law is made up of a complex body of legislation. Failing to understand your rights as a defendant and the charges against you can result in severe punishment. This is especially true if you are charged with a felony and face felony punishment, which usually includes more than a year in prison.

A criminal defense attorney understands criminal law and can do a number of things to benefit you even before the commencement of a criminal trial. For example, a criminal defense attorney can:

  • Challenge your arrest in instances where police officers claim to have had probable cause
  • Argue in favor of your being released on a reduced bail
  • Negotiate plea bargains with prosecutors
  • Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your case and discuss with you the pros and cons of going to trial
  • Go over the advantages and disadvantages of pleading guilty

The Criminal Justice Process: When to Hire a Lawyer

To understand when you may want to retain a criminal defense lawyer, you should have a basic understanding of the criminal justice process.

Usually, the first stage of the process is the investigation. This can be as simple as a police officer observing a car speeding down the highway or as involved as forensic evidence collection and the questioning of witnesses.

In many investigation situations, such as the speeding car scenario, a person doesnt have time to contact an attorney while the investigation is taking place. However, if you know you are the subject of a criminal investigation, you may want to retain a criminal defense attorney to prepare for a possible arrest

The next basic stage of the criminal justice process is the arrest. An arrest does not mean you have been formally charged with a crime. Arrests can be made under several conditions, including if the officer has probable cause. Probable cause is a reasonable suspicion that you committed a specific crime. At the time of arrest, the arresting officer will notify you of your right to an attorney. If you are considering challenging an officers claim to probable cause, then this is the stage at which you would likely want to retain a criminal defense lawyer.

An arraignment follows an arrest. The arraignment is the formal presentation of charges in open court. By the time arraignment occurs, you will definitely want to have an attorney. During the arraignment you will enter your plea of either guilty or not guilty. That means you should have already discussed your case strategy with your attorney. In addition, this is the stage where you and your attorney may want to discuss negotiating a plea bargain. A plea bargain usually entails the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser crime than what he or she was initially charged with in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Criminal Defense Lawyer Hiring Tips

In the end, it is best to hire a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. This is especially true if the charges against you are very serious, such as a felony. You will also want to make sure that the criminal defense attorney you hire has experience handling cases that involve crimes such as yours. For example, if you are being charged with felony theft, you will not want to hire a criminal defense attorney who only has experience with felony assault or misdemeanors.

You will also want to ask your prospective attorney a number of questions before hiring the attorney. Include questions about the lawyer's education background, thoughts on your case, and how much the lawyer charges.