Criminal defense attorneys are who represent individuals accused of crimes. In the American legal system, people who are charged with a crime have the right to an attorney even if they cannot afford one. A lawyer may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed completely. If you choose not to hire an attorney, many jurisdictions provide free counsel for low-income people accused of crimes. Just because you need an attorney does not mean that it is too late for you to exercise your rights as a responsible citizen and make an effort to contact law enforcement and disclose any potentially damaging information before an arrest occurs.
Frequently an individual has attempted to resolve the criminal allegations against them before consulting with a defense attorney. Many defendants believe that they can resolve the charges independently or work out a plea deal with law enforcement and prosecutors without incurring an expensive legal fee. While this may be possible in some cases, you must remember that if law enforcement officials believe that you are guilty of the crime they have charged you with, they are often willing to be less than truthful to obtain information from you during questioning. For example, suppose an individual has reason-to-believe he or she was involved in a homicide but had not yet been arrested, rather than taking responsibility for what happened by speaking to police about what transpired when someone died as a result of his or her actions. In that case, it is far more common for a person to deny involvement in the crime and assert that they did not cause the death of another. In this situation, an individual may end up pleading guilty to manslaughter or even murder when he or she was only responsible for making a deadly weapon available to someone else.
In other cases, individuals have been arrested because their seemingly benign behavior has been misinterpreted by law enforcement as illegal. For example, if you are charged with drunk driving and you had cannabis products on your person during the time that you were pulled over by police officers who conducted field sobriety tests and claimed that your performance failed those tests; it could be very beneficial for your criminal defense attorney to examine whether law enforcement officers thought that you were “acting strange” or exhibiting signs of impairment because they knew that you used cannabis products and wanted to arrest you for it. Regardless, you deserve a strong advocate who looks out for your best interests and has the necessary knowledge to ensure that prosecutors overlook no potentially exculpatory evidence.
The criminal defense attorney will take on the task of analyzing all aspects of each case, such as: The seriousness level of the crime that a client is charged with, and whether this would be considered grand jury versus petit jury trial; the likely outcomes/sentencing options available in each case based on applicable laws; any potential defenses to consider (or not) at an early stage before pleading guilty; charges involving misdemeanors, such as driving under the influence and assault, or crimes involving felonies, such as murder, armed robbery and organized crime/drug trafficking.
If you are facing criminal charges, it is important to understand that the outcome of your case will have a potentially negative impact on your life for years to come. A conviction can mean time in prison, substantial fines, damage to your reputation, and the inability to find work after release.
Story by Gill A. Cochran (but please – call me Drew), the founder of Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law in Annapolis. I graduated from Curry College with a B.A., earned my law degree (a juris doctor, or J.D.) from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1997 and passed the Maryland Bar Exam the next year (1998). I’ve always practiced in Annapolis, but I opened up shop on my own in 2012.