Groups » From Bail to Building a Case: Six Ways a Criminal Lawyer Advocates for Clients

More than 68 million Americans have a criminal record, according to a statement made in 2014 by the House Committee on the Judiciary Over-Criminalization Task Force. That works out as roughly one in every 25 American citizens have been convicted of a felony crime.

As legal professionals, we have an obligation to promote our services and educate the public on the importance of quality legal representation. We share six ways that a criminal lawyer adds value by being a strong personal advocate and legal resource.

1. Help to Establish a Bail Bond

While defendants do not need a lawyer to assist them with acquiring a bail bond, sometimes a lawyer can help his or her client get bonded more quickly and with less difficulty. If a family member is unable or unwilling to issue a bond for the accused to secure their release from incarceration, the next step is to negotiate with a bail bondsman. The judge will set the amount of bail that he or she feels to be appropriate for the circumstance. On average, bail for criminal offenses that are classified as felonies are five to more than ten times higher than bails required for misdemeanor charges, per a Providence bail lawyer, and the bail schedule is usually set, with the date of payment remaining non-negotiable.

It is important to note that the option of allowing a bail bond depends entirely on the judge and the circumstance. For instance, if the accused was incarcerated while attempting to flee the country (particularly with a large amount of money and a passport), the court may determine the accused to be a "flight risk" and deny bail. In those situations, the accused is required to remain incarcerated until court proceedings are completed, and the individual is released or sentenced to serve time.

2. Gather Statements and Evidence

After bail has been set (or denied), the criminal lawyer starts working immediately on acquiring statements and evidence to support the defense of the client. The problem with violent criminal cases, or those that involve gangs or criminal syndicates, is that witnesses feel they can be victimized or harmed if they provide evidence and they are therefore fearful and frequently unwilling to comply.

A lawyer who is experienced with interviewing witnesses can provide some legal assurances for the individual. Lawyers can also hire professional private investigators to gather legal evidence to support the defense of their client, which is admissible in court.

3. Explain the Legal Consequences

As new evidence is presented for review from the prosecution, a lawyer will review the information with the client. The advice of the lawyer will always advocate on the side of his or her client to defend the client’s innocence. However, in some cases, the overwhelming evidence may point to guilt, in which case a good lawyer will also explain possible outcomes in court.

The job of a lawyer is to defend the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law. However, a good lawyer will be honest with the client about changes, probabilities, and challenges involved with the case, which can alter a favorable outcome (dismissal of charges) for the accused. The lawyer will be honest and work diligently in cases where evidence is overwhelmingly against the accused to get the shortest possible sentence, or a plea bargain, if possible.

4. Guide You Through Rules and Regulations

If it is the first time an individual has been charged with a felony offense (requiring a court date), there are standard procedures, documents, and rules that must be followed in terms of acquiring evidence and documentation, interviewing witnesses, providing statements, submitting to drug or sample testing, and more. Any error in the collection and reporting of information requested by the prosecution and court can jeopardize the legal case for the defendant.

5. Plea Bargain Proposal or Reduced Sentence Request

In criminal cases, there are rare occasions where a sentence may be reduced through a plea bargain, if the accused can become a "cooperating witness." When an individual is charged with a crime, but they have valuable information and testimony that can help put someone else (particularly someone with more power or serious pending charges) in prison, there is the opportunity to leverage this information to receive a reduced sentence.

Unlike what we see on television, such deals with convicted criminals are rare, but they can happen in drug cases or where criminal syndicates or networks are involved, if it allows legal justice to acquire more perpetrators who have managed to evade the law. Plea bargain proposals must occur before the individual is convicted formally by the crime in court, and the procedure for filing a plea bargain is outlined in the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b).

An individual who has cooperated by providing information will commence serving the sentence after the resolution of the court case. They are not released, nor do they receive a ‘stay’ of their sentence, pending the outcome of their assistance in another criminal prosecution.

In other scenarios, it is possible to petition the court for a reduced sentence, depending on specific and strict circumstances. Per U.S. Code Section 3582, a judge may reduce or shorten a prison term for an individual who has successfully served at least thirty (30) years in prison, and who is at least 70 years old. This caveat is based on good behavior in prison which assures the Director of the Bureau of Prisons to make the recommendation, releasing the convicted felon at an age where the penal system feels the individual is no longer a danger or threat to the community, and it is based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

6. How Lawyers Help After Sentencing

In some criminal cases, a client may be paroled for good behavior, after serving a portion of the sentence ordered by the court for misdemeanor charges generally (although there is some precedent for felony cases that qualify for parole). Parole is good news for the convicted felon, because it allows them to return home, work, and start rebuilding their life after serving time in prison. However, being granted parole also comes with several conditions, which if broken, will result in the accused being returned to prison with a substantially reduced (if not impossible) chance of being paroled early again.

Lawyers can be present at parole hearings to present evidence for their clients, which may help a parole board to consent to early release. They can also help clients connect with social programs that are designed to help former prisoners find employment, retraining, health insurance, and other avenues that exist in the United States, to get felons back on their feet financially and administratively (to avoid reverting to criminal activities).

For legal professionals, consider investing in communication through digital marketing and printed literature and advertising, that delivers a strong message to citizens about the inherent value and necessity of quality legal representation. It will help the public better understand the many facets that a criminal lawyer provides, and how it can both improve legal outcomes and ease some of the burden of transitions for the client.

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