Most of us have heard someone ‘Mirandized’ on TV. The first thing that they are told is that they have the right to remain silent. Immediately after that, they are told that they have the right to an attorney and if they cannot afford one, one will be appointed for them. 

The police are usually referring to a criminal defense lawyer, and as many people who have been in criminal trouble will tell you, it is always best to wait until you get a lawyer before you talk to law enforcement officials. 

What is a criminal defense lawyer? What role do they serve? How do they protect the rights of those charged with offenses? As someone who plans to study law, it is essential to be familiar with the answers to these questions. They form part of your curriculum and will become even more important if, later in your course, you decide to specialize in criminal law. 

To become a lawyer, you can enroll in an online law degree and earn a Juris Doctor in about three years. This is shorter than the time it takes to earn a law degree if you enroll in an in-person program. The course teaches core legal concepts, and you learn how to perform legal research and analysis. You can choose to specialize in criminal law, family law, business law, health law and even cybersecurity law. 

To qualify for a Juris Doctor, you need to have a bachelor’s degree and a final transcript from LCAS. You also need proof of your LSAT score, a personal statement, letters of recommendation and a resume. This article will give you a brief overview of criminal lawyers and help you understand why they are necessary for the judicial process. 

What is a criminal defense lawyer?

A criminal defense lawyer is an attorney who specializes in the defense of anyone who has been charged with criminal activity. They act as the agent of the accused. In America, anyone who is charged with a crime has a right to defend themselves. The criminal defense lawyer protects this right, and they handle all interactions between the justice system and the accused. 

What does a criminal defense attorney do?

If someone is charged with an offense, they would be advised to seek out the services of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

These attorneys cost money though, and some arrestees cannot afford to hire them. In such cases, the court appoints a lawyer for them. They are called public defenders and are employed by the government. They tend to be paid less and have a higher caseload than private defense attorneys.

After the lawyer takes on a case, they go through the following steps:

  • They interview their client so that they can gather the facts of the case. They do this so that they can formulate a defense for the case. They also examine the weaknesses and strengths of the prosecution’s case to determine whether there is an offense to be prosecuted. 
  • The criminal defense attorney investigates the events relating to the charge. The investigation will be based on the information provided by their client and will also be led by the attorney’s experience and common sense. Whatever they uncover can be used to challenge the prosecution. 
  • It is the role of the defense attorney to analyze evidence. The prosecution (including the police and the district attorney) collect evidence related to the case, and they are required by law to share it with the defense. The defense lawyer can examine it as they see fit. It isn’t unusual for criminal lawyers to spend large sums of money on laboratories and experts to assess evidence that they hope will exonerate their client. 
  • Client confidentiality is another aspect of the criminal lawyer role and one that they must take seriously. All communications between a lawyer and a client are confidential, and the lawyer cannot disclose them under any circumstances. It is also their role to keep their client appraised of all that is going on regarding their case. They must let them know the different avenues that are available to them and the consequences of each. 
  • They represent the client in all matters about their case. If, for example, there is a hearing in court, it is the job of the lawyer to be present and speak on their behalf. 
  • The defense lawyer takes part in jury selection. They are required to select a jury that they deem favorable (as much as possible) to their client’s plight. 
  • The lawyer also explores pleas with the prosecution and bargains on their client’s behalf. If the defense attorney has a plea proposition, the criminal lawyer must present it to their client. 
  • Defense attorneys represent their clients during trials. They present their defense strategy to the court and question witnesses. It is their job to make sure that their client is treated according to the law and that their rights are protected at all times. 
  • They are present during sentencing, and they present mitigating factors that can help reduce the period of incarceration. They may also present alternatives to incarceration if they feel that those may serve their clients better. 
  • If a client wishes to appeal their sentence, it is the job of the defense attorney to provide them with appropriate legal advice, build the case for the appeal, and represent them through the process. 

Can a criminal defendant try a case without a criminal defense lawyer?

A criminal defendant can try a case without an attorney, and some do, but it is not advisable. The law is complex and nuanced, and very few people who dismiss the option to have a lawyer present succeed in exonerating themselves. 

If a criminal defendant cannot afford to pay an attorney, it is their right to have the police appoint a public defender to act on their behalf. It may take a little longer than hiring a private attorney, but it is better than a complete lack of representation.


A criminal defense lawyer is an integral part of the judicial system. They are the legal agent of any individual who is accused of a criminal offense. It is a lucrative branch of law, though some criminal attorneys work for the government and are paid significantly less than private criminal lawyers.