Being a criminal defense attorney, one must have an astute understanding of the evidence laws of one's particular state. Only with an astute understanding of these laws can a lawyer effectively represent clients. Many criminal law cases rest upon the issue of whether evidence may be admitted into a trial. The job of a criminal defense lawyer is to not only give fair representation to a person charged with a crime, but it is also to challenge any improper admission of evidence from the prosecution.
A lawyer should have a clear understanding of all of the evidentiary laws in a particular state. Each state has a separate Code of Evidence that lawyers should take care to read and understand. By understanding the Rules of Evidence, one may be able to overturn a conviction for a person based on the improper admission of evidence.
Special Training Required
The best training that a criminal lawyer can have is experience as a prosecutor or experience in the court room. There is no particular class that can provide a criminal lawyer with the skills and knowledge to effectively represent people charged with crimes in a court room and in front of a jury. To become a criminal defense lawyer, there are a couple of hoops that one must jump through.
The American Bar Association frequently sponsors seminars that can offer legal education to lawyers who practice criminal law. One can learn how to handle trials more effectively by partaking in these seminars. Learning the trial process inside and out is the most important aspect of being a lawyer.
First, one must attend a business school and obtain an undergraduate education. Obtaining an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, criminal sociology, or criminal psychology can be helpful for a career as a criminal defense lawyer. After one receives his or her undergraduate degree, the next step is for a person to obtain his or her law school degree. One must have a juris doctorate to practice law in a majority of states. The only state in which a person does not need to have a law school education is the state of California. However, a person should still consider obtaining a juris doctorate for the credibility that it offers one on his or her resume. A law school education also prepares a person to take the bar exam.
Primary Focus and Services
A criminal lawyer usually needs to have a niche to thrive in this practice. Many criminal lawyers choose to focus on representation of clients who have been charged with a particular crime. For example, some defense lawyers may choose to only represent clients who have been charged with a DUI. Other defense lawyers may only represent clients charged with white collar crimes, murder, or rape. A criminal lawyer needs to have a thorough understanding of the laws that are relevant to each particular crime.
Criminal defense lawyers should also know the different stages of a trial. Knowing how the jury selection process works is critical for one's success as a criminal defense lawyer. The selection of a jury can directly affect whether a lawyer will win his or her case. The most seasoned lawyers know how important jury selection is, and they usually approach this part of a trial with the utmost seriousness.
Criminal defense lawyers also should know about the different pleas that a person may make. Negotiating with the prosecution for a less harsh sentence is one of the most important parts of a trial. A good lawyer may be able to negotiate a compromise with the prosecution for a less severe sentence for a particular person charged with a crime.
Associations and Organizations
Criminal defense lawyers should seek to become part of organizations sponsored by the American Bar Association. Clients may also want to contact criminal defense lawyers who are part of these organizations in the American Bar Association for their reliability and reputation. One can find organizations like the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association or Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice that are a supportive network for criminal defense lawyers.
The more involved criminal defense lawyers are in different organizations, the more likely they are to meet other lawyers in the field and gain a better understand of laws in their state.