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True Crime: When Do You Need to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer

In 2018, over 10 million people were arrested in the United States. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, you know how overwhelming and scary it can be, especially if you’ve never had contact with the police or criminal justice system before.

If you are facing criminal charges, you need a criminal defense attorney. They will defend you against the charges and protect your rights in court.

Read on to learn more about hiring a criminal defense lawyer and when you need one.

You Are Facing Felony Charges

If you are facing felony charges, whether it’s a violent crime, property crime, or drug crime, you need a dedicated attorney to represent you. Felony charges typically carry a potential prison sentence. An attorney will be able to negotiate with the prosecutor and potentially get you a shorter sentence.

You Are Innocent

If you need a defense attorney when you’re guilty, you definitely need one when you are innocent. While it’s hard to know exactly how many people are wrongfully convicted, there have been thousands of people exonerated.

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These are people who have spent years and sometimes decades in prison for crimes they did not commit. If you have been charged with a crime — especially a serious one — and you are innocent, you need a good defense attorney to take your case. It’s much harder to get exonerated or win your case on an appeal than it is to fight the charges from the beginning.

You Were Acting in Self-Defense

If you were acting in defense of yourself, your home, or another person, you need an attorney to defend you in court. Yes, you committed the crime, but you only did so to protect yourself or others.

This is especially relevant in cases of assault, homicide, robbery, or burglary. If you live in a state with stand-your-ground laws, for example, you do not have to retreat if faced with the threat of danger. Instead, you can stand your ground to defend yourself or a third party.

Similarly, if you live in a state with the castle doctrine, you can use force to defend your home. There are stipulations on these defenses, however, such as what is a reasonable amount of force to use and whether you are in imminent danger, so hiring an attorney experienced with these types of cases is important.

You Are Facing Drug Charges

Drug charges also carry stiff penalties. Depending on the nature of the crime and the amount of drugs you have, you could be facing federal drug charges. If you have a small amount of drugs, you may be charged with possession, but as that amount gets larger, you may be facing possession with intent to deliver.

The penalties for possession with intent to deliver are much harsher. An attorney will help defend you in court, especially if you were subject to an unlawful search and seizure, were holding the drugs for someone else, or were forced to carry or deliver drugs for someone else.

An attorney will help ensure your rights are not violated and also potentially negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors in exchange for information about others involved in the drug operation or a guilty plea.

You Are Facing Murder Charges

Any time you are facing murder or manslaughter charges, you need an attorney. In some instances, you may be justified in your actions, such as self-defense.


In order to charge you with first-degree murder, prosecutors have to demonstrate that you acted willfully and that the act was premeditated. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to properly defend you in court, and if appropriate, use a justification defense such as self-defense.

How to Pick the Right Attorney

It’s important to hire an attorney when facing criminal charges, but you also need to hire the right attorney. Some things you should look for when considering criminal defense attorneys include their experience with cases similar to yours, their success, and their experience in defending defendants in your local court system.

Experience With Your Type of Crime

Criminal law is complex and encompasses many different crimes. Because of this, you should choose an attorney with experience defending your type of charges. If you’re charged with a drug offense and an attorney specializes in defending assault charges or financial crimes, you should probably look elsewhere.


Not only do you want an attorney with experience, but you also want one who is successful. When researching attorneys or speaking with them, ask them about their success in court.

What kinds of plea bargains have they been able to negotiate? What kinds of sentences have their defendants received?

If possible, speak to previous clients to learn more about the attorney and how they handle their cases.

Local Experience

Hiring a criminal defense attorney with local experience puts you at an advantage. Your attorney may understand your state’s laws, but without the local connection, you may be at a disadvantage.

An attorney who practices in your local area will likely have established relationships with prosecutors. They also have insider knowledge of the system, including what judges are preferred and what types of plea bargains prosecutors will consider.

Additionally, local attorneys also know the local officers who may have arrested you and how they perform on the stand.

The caveat is to find a well-respected local attorney, though. If you know attorneys who may not practice in your type of crime, ask them for recommendations. You might find a local attorney that no one likes to work with, so a recommendation from another attorney is helpful.

Hire the Best Criminal Defense Attorney You Can

Being charged with a crime can be overwhelming. From minor crimes to felonies, involvement with the criminal justice system can have a significant impact on your life. Make sure that you hire an experienced attorney who can best defend you.

Did you find this article informative and useful? If so, be sure to explore some of the others on our site.

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