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What Are the Qualities of a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Posted on: January 18, 2022

Being charged with a crime can be shocking and life-changing to say the least, and if this has happened to you or someone you care about, time is of the essence. You need to reach out to a lawyer qualified and experienced in criminal defense lawyer at your first opportunity, but you also need to choose carefully. Gone are the days when people used to just pick a name out of the phone book; know that you will need a good criminal defense lawyer who has the background and experience that you need. Do not pick one based on a television commercial or the recommendation of one person; you will want to complete an initial consultation before engaging a lawyer’s services.

What Traits Should My Criminal Defense Lawyer Possess?

A skilled criminal defense lawyer will realize that a client’s life is going to change drastically from the very first conversation that takes place. They will also be prepared for the impending issues and possible court battles that could be coming. They will listen to all your questions and details about the case, and you can feel comfortable confiding in them. During the discussions, the lawyer will guide you carefully to get the information they need without making you feel embarrassed. You do not have to provide extra details that are not asked for and remember that the lawyer cannot disclose anything that you tell them in confidence. On the flip side, they are not allowed to let clients testify falsely under oath.

A good criminal defense lawyer understands the importance of protecting client privacy, and this extends to any dealings with a client’s family members. It is common for family to ask pointed questions and even demand answers about information that is meant to stay private. The lawyer will know to keep certain things private that could harm the case.

How Knowledgeable Should a Criminal Defense Lawyer Be?

A criminal defense case can go through expected phases as things progress, but there can also be plenty of unexpected twists and turns along the way. This is where the lawyer’s knowledge and experience can be invaluable, especially if the charges are serious. You will want someone who specializes in criminal law and has at least 10 years of experience if you are facing something as significant as felony charges.  

Knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers will be aware of the clients’ situations and all the possible implications. They are trained and experienced in acting quickly to prevent criminal convictions as cases evolve. If you want to learn more about a criminal defense lawyer’s knowledge and experience, you can go online and look for more information on their background; client reviews can also be worth reading.

The Importance of Staying Current on Criminal Law

A good criminal defense lawyer’s knowledge must be up to date, as laws often change when legislature passes a bill and a governor or another legislative body signs it. Laws that have been in place for decades and even longer can change with just one ruling.

One example of this kind of swift change is a 2009 case that took place in Louisiana. A defendant in court was appointed a lawyer by the judge and was returned to jail afterwards. That lawyer was not present at the time but went to the jail afterwards to speak with this new client. Before the lawyer arrived, the police asked the defendant to join them on a car ride to help find the murder weapon. During that time, the defendant was read his Miranda warnings but was asked to write a letter to the victim’s wife. The defendant wrote this letter of apology, using words suggested by the police. In this letter, it said that the defendant was sorry for the murder. As a result, the prosecutor convicted the defendant and acquired a death sentence for him.

The U.S. Supreme Court became involved in the case and concluded that when Miranda rights are given and waived by a defendant, he or she can be questioned even after being assigned a lawyer. However, the Court preserved a rule that prohibits law enforcement from initiating questions after defendants invoke their right to council, unless the defendant makes the initial contact. This new ruling replaces the previous one that was in place for 23 years.

The Ability to Negotiate

During your initial consultation, pay attention to what the criminal defense lawyer says and see how carefully they listen to you and how they respond. Do they ask intelligent questions? Are they engaged with what you are saying, or are their answers sounding disconnected? You will want a lawyer who is aggressive, but not pushy or loud. Prosecutors are backed by the state, and many judges are former prosecutors; it is not unusual for these parties to have worked with each other in the past.

Your lawyer needs to be aggressive and confident enough to stand up to these imposing people, and this comes with being experienced, understanding the law and possible outcomes and experience. Remember, the standard for criminal convictions is not “I think so”; it is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is intimidating for sure, and you will want to have a strong lawyer at your side.

Also keep in mind that not all criminal cases end up in jury trials. Lawyers who can negotiate effectively can sometimes come up with ways to get defendants better results. For example, if the client was a drug addict, the lawyer could help him or her get into a treatment program and make sure that the prosecutor is aware of that. The client will need to provide their full cooperation; otherwise, things are less likely to go their way.

Other Qualities of a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer

Besides everything mentioned above, good criminal defense lawyers are also strong investigators. They will investigate every aspect of the case, pursuing all avenues and speaking to possible witnesses. Once this discovery phase is completed, everything should be reviewed and discussed with the client. This, in a nutshell, is called perseverance.

A good criminal defense lawyer also understands the importance of remaining reasonable. Therefore, if a client commits a serious crime such as a homicide, the idea of that person being able to walk away with just probation is simply not realistic. When a lawyer paints a picture that seems much too bright, you may want to consult with another attorney. Your lawyer should be willing to discuss possible outcomes, but no one can predict the outcome of a criminal case.

What if There is a Lot of Evidence against Me?

This can seem unsurpassable to defendants, but evidence at face value does not always win cases. Say that you confessed to a crime in addition to evidence being found at the scene. If it can be shown that law enforcement obtained your statement illegally, that small battle is won, and your lawyer can help you move on to the next issue. Every part of the case must be carefully dissected and addressed to find its weak points.

Prosecutors may also consider subjective matters that are less black and white. They may be somewhat more flexible if they know that a defendant was involved with their community, had a difficult upbringing, or was forced into committing the crime in question. This can all come into play when defense lawyers enter plea negotiations with the other side.

Monmouth County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law Provide Trusted Legal Counsel in Criminal Cases

If you are facing criminal charges and are seeking experienced representation, look no further than the seasoned Monmouth County criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law. Our legal team will work hard to remove or lessen the charges held against you. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.