Menu
Law Firm of Aaron Bortel

What Is Criminal Defense Law?


People who are accused to have committed a crime are afforded legal protection, this principle is what criminal defense law consists of. Law enforcement agencies and government prosecutors have extensive resources at their disposal. Without adequate protections for the accused, the balance of power within the justice system would become skewed in favor of the government. With that being said, fair treatment for criminal defendants often time depends greatly upon the skill of their defense attorney as it does the substantive protections contained in the law.

In order to have an advantage in favor of their clients, defense attorneys know how to use constitutional guarantees. For example, all criminal prosecutions are based upon evidence gathered by the government. This may include physical items of evidence, witness statements, confessions, drug and alcohol tests, and so forth. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the police from using unreasonable searches and seizures to gather evidence. If they do, a defense attorney will ask the court to suppress that evidence so it cannot be used at trial.

The Constitution provides vast options that are applicable to the field of criminal defense law. The mandate of double jeopardy of the Fifth Amendment provides that someone who has been tried and acquitted of a crime cannot again be charged with that office. The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to a public trial, and in many cases, the right to have their guilt or innocence decided by a jury. It also affords the right to confront adverse witnesses, and to use the court’s subpoena power to compel the appearance of favorable witnesses.

Securing a Release from Jail Pending Trial

The first thing defendants want do, following an arrest, is to get out of jail. Besides the obvious inconveniences, being in jail prevents defendants from working and earning money in order to pay a defense attorney and meet their other financial obligations. This can be especially problematic for those who will later plead guilty and face expensive fines and assessments. Defendants who are incarcerated are also at a disadvantage because it is more difficult for them to assist their attorney in preparing a defense.

Obtaining a release from jail while a case is pending requires the defendant to post bail. In simple terms, bail is “good faith money”, giving the court a form of collateral to ensure the defendant returns to court to attend future proceedings in the case. If the defendant fails to appear, the bail money is forfeited. A defendant who cannot afford bail may use a commercial bond service or ask the judge to reduce the bail amount. Judges may agree to reduce bail if it can be shown that the defendant has strong ties to the local community and does not pose a danger to others.

Plea Bargaining Strategies

Statistic wise, criminal cases and its vast majority never really reach the trial stage. Instead, the defendant and the prosecuting attorney will enter into a settlement agreement known as a plea bargain. Basically, the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a lenient sentence. Defendants seeking a plea bargain can take one of two general approaches. They can fight the government at every turn, making the prosecutor’s job more difficult, and giving the prosecutor an incentive to get rid of the case through a plea bargain. Alternatively, defendants can fully cooperate, demonstrate true remorse, and convince the prosecutor that a lenient sentence is appropriate because they have changed their criminal ways.

Presenting a Winning Defense to the Jury

However, there are times when a case does proceed to jury trial, one of the keys to success is presenting a coherent, persuasive theory to explain to the jury why the defendant has been falsely accused. The defendant’s attorney will touch upon this theory throughout the trial, creating a narrative that resonates with jury members in that community and reinforces their pre-existing beliefs about the issues in the case. Developing the right theory and presenting it effectively is the goal of every criminal defense trial lawyer.

Reasons to Hire a Defense Attorney 

Simply put, the criminal justice system is not designed for people to represent themselves. In case of an arrest, an attorney is needed in order to stand up for your rights, fight back against ardent police officers and obtain the best result possible.

Share this Article

About the Author

My name is Aaron Bortel. I practice in the state of California. I handle DUI cases exclusively and have been practicing for over 25 years.