Different Types Of Defense Lawyers
When hiring a defense lawyer, it is important to find the right one to handle your specific case. However, many wonder what a defense lawyer generally does for their clients. First of all, before choosing a lawyer, it is important to make sure they are licensed to practice law in that specific state.
Most lawyers specialize in a certain area of law and it is best to choose one that specializes in the practice area in which you require defense. When an attorney has specialized in a specific area of law for the majority of their time in practice, this typically signifies that they have a lot of experience relating to that subject.
What does a defense lawyer do, exactly? Their job is to represent their clients in court proceedings and they are supposed to do what they possibly can to get their clients the best outcome. It may not always work in their client’s favor, but attorneys are bound by a code of ethics under licensing laws and must provide their clients with fair and honest representation that works in the best interest of their clients.
Let’s take a quick a look at the 4 different types of defense attorneys and what they generally do below.
Civil Litigation Defense Lawyers
Civil defense lawyers often work on cases where they defend people listed in a lawsuit. In these types of cases, their clients are being taken to court and sued for a sum of money. The lawyer’s job is in these types of cases is to try and prove that their clients were not liable for the claimed damages. This area of defense covers many different types of cases. For example, divorce law, personal injury law, and mass torts.
Juvenile Defense Lawyers
Juvenile defense lawyers defend people aged between 10 and 17 since they cannot be tried as adults, even if the crimes committed are the same as adult crimes. Sentences and penalties are much different for juveniles and this area of defense law is quite unique because in most cases, defense lawyers who specialize in this area of law are tasked with trying to find rehabilitative solutions for their young clients and hopefully help them avoid incarceration.
Criminal Defense Attorneys
An attorney that specializes in criminal defense may be self-employed, work for a law firm, other organizations such as nonprofits or for government agencies. He will develop an affirmative defense strategy that challenges the strength, validity and sufficiency of the evidence for the prosecution and provide evidence that defends the client, such as an alibi. If this is not possible or sufficient, he may resort to other types of defense to try to get a “not guilty” verdict for his client. This may include: coercion or duress, where the client was forced to commit a crime; self-defense, where the client acted to defend himself; consent, where the victim consented to the client’s actions; and statute of limitations, where the amount of time the prosecution has to bring charges against a defendant has expired. Although commonly used in movies, the insanity defense, that accepts that you committed the alleged crime, but were unaware that you were doing wrong, is used only infrequently and is rarely successful.
Public defenders generally work for government appointed agencies, such as a county defender’s office. They are bar-licensed attorneys who represent clients accused of felonies but who cannot afford to hire an attorney themselves. The right to representation, regardless of ability to pay, came about as a result of the Florida state court case of Gideon versus Wainwright, where Gideon was charged with felony breaking and entering. He could not afford to hire a defense attorney and when he requested one he was refused. He defended himself and was found guilty and incarcerated. He applied to the Florida Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, on the grounds that his conviction violated his rights under the Constitution. He won the right to a new trial and legal representation and was then acquitted.
Other Criminal Defenses
There are a number of other criminal defenses that a defendant can invoke. Some of the more common criminal defenses include:
- Self-defense: This defense states that ones actions, which otherwise would be considered criminal, were necessary in order to defend oneself.
- Consent: This defense acknowledges that the defendant did commit some sort of action but also states that this act was consented to by the victim. An example of this defense is consent to bodily harm.
- Intoxication: Although being intoxicated wont necessarily clear you of most crimes, it can in some situations negate an element of a crime.
- Statute of limitations: This defense states that the amount of time the prosecution has to bring charges against a defendant has passed, and therefore the charges must be dropped.
The 3 Types Of Stories Defense Attorneys Hear
In every criminal case, there are three versions of what happened. There’s what the prosecution alleges happened, what the defense says happened, and what actually happened. In many cases, it can be difficult or impossible to know what actually happened when a crime was committed. This can be due to a lack of evidence, lack of witnesses, unreliable testimony from the victim or defendant, or any combination of those things.
When there is a lack of physical evidence and witnesses in a case, a lot more weight (and scrutiny) is placed on the stories and testimony of the defendants and the victims. This is why the version of events a defendant tells their defense attorney is so essential. These stories typically fall into one of three types.
- Confession Stories
While not as common as the two other types of stories defendants tell their lawyers, on occasion clients will come in and admit that they are “guilty as charged.” Believe it or not, when a client simply confesses to the crime, it can often make a defense attorney’s job easier. With a confession, an attorney knows what the truth is and doesn’t need to worry about their client hiding critical information that might surface later in the case. Even with a confession, a defense attorney is still obligated to defend their client to the best of their ability. Much of what happens in cases when a client has admitted guilt to their attorney depends on evidence the prosecution gathers and presents in court.
- Total Denial Stories
Total denials of any wrongdoing are by far the most common type of story defense attorneys hear. When a client denies all charges against them, defense attorneys have to be a bit more careful. If their client is, in fact, actually not guilty and has been falsely accused, then the case is (usually) much easier to defend. When a client lies about being innocent to their defense attorney, the chances of them being caught go up exponentially. Hiding the truth from an attorney puts the attorney as a huge disadvantage.
- Admit And Explain Stories
An “admit and explain” story is often equal parts confession and denial. For example, a client accused of robbery may admit that yes, they were at the scene of the crime when it occurred, but the actual robbery was committed by someone else. These types of stories are tricky for defense attorneys because it can be challenging to discern how much of the confession is true and how much of the denial is false. Experienced defense attorneys know how to question their clients and get a better idea of how much of their story is true. However, a lot still depends on the defendant’s honesty.