While lawyers and judges are the ultimate legal experts, of course, I believe that every citizen should take the time to learn a little about law for several reasons. First, it is important to know your rights, and knowing them can come in handy if anyone ever accuses you of a crime you didn't commit or threatens you legally in another other way. Second, learning about your local, state, and federal laws can help you act as a better citizen. When election time comes around, you can then truly understand ever change in law being proposed by a candidate and whether it benefits society or not. I plan to share posts about law topics explained in plain English on my new blog, so you can come back often to sharpen your legal knowledge!
If you've been accused of a drug- or alcohol-related crime, the first thing you need to do is talk about your situation with an attorney. Even if you intend to plead guilty to the charges, you may be missing out on the the chance for a softened plea bargain or reduced sentence without skilled legal counsel representing you. Be sure to consider the positives of hiring a defense attorney before your court date, and you may be able to better weather the legal storm.
Why A Defense Attorney Specifically?
Not every legal case is won the same way. If you've been charged with a crime, your case needs to be handled differently than, say, a civil suit or a disability claim. Specifically, criminal cases require extensive knowledge of criminal law and the justice system on the part of your lawyer, which a defense attorney is best able to provide.
Defense attorneys are not only familiar with how the criminal system works on the whole, but they typically know most of the judges and prosecutors in your area. This means a defense lawyer is going to be in a uniquely advantageous position when it comes to plea bargaining or requesting a sentence reduction, if you intend to plead guilty to your charges. Plea bargain discussions and requests for lenience are likely to be better received if your attorney knows just what makes the prosecutor or judge tick.
If you intend to prove your innocence in court, this knowledge is just as valuable. An experience defense attorney will likely be able to predict the arguments a prosecutor will put forward against you. Good lawyers will also know which arguments will be most likely to sway a particular judge in your favor.
Do Your Charges Affect Your Choice Of Defender?
When you're looking to hire legal counsel, you need to know whether to seek a federal defense attorney or a local one. Drunk driving charges or small-time drug use charges will usually fall under state or local laws depending on the charge. Bigger charges, like trafficking or distributing drugs, may fall under the purview of federal courts, however. If you are charged with serious crimes, including felonies, you'll need to seek out a federal defense lawyer with expertise in your specific type of case.
Federal offenses almost always result in bigger and more complex battles in court. In general, federal prosecutors are more skilled than their lower-level counterparts, and they have a reputation to uphold by winning the case against you. If you want the best chance of winning your case, you'll need a veteran attorney that can at least match the prosecutor's skill.
If a defense lawyer specializes in federal cases, it means they not only are willing to take on very difficult work, but that they likely have a history of winning cases similar to yours. An attorney specializing in federal-level drug charges will be far more extensively versed in the relevant laws than an all-purpose lawyer or a local drug lawyer. However they may also tend to have higher fees than their local counterparts.
Isn't A Public Defender Just As Good As A Private Defense Attorney?
While public defenders may have your best interests at heart, they are not a practical substitute for a private lawyer -- especially for serious charges.
Despite being qualified lawyers in their own right, public defenders are somewhat of a grab-bag in terms of actual quality. They tend to be severely overworked: some even take as many as 200 simultaneous cases. No matter how hard they try, most public defenders have too many cases to perform optimally in court, according to the American Bar Association.
Public defenders, on average, are also not going to have the same unique qualifications as a veteran defense attorney specializing in charges similar to yours. Many public defenders are lawyers fresh out of school who are hoping to build resumes or general purpose attorneys without extensive practice in any one area of criminal law.
Don't go to court, or even discuss a plea bargain, without an expert attorney by your side. With help from a veteran who has won cases like yours in the past, you may be able to prove your innocence or at least barter for a significantly reduced sentence. For more information, go to sites for criminal defense attorneys.