When it comes to criminal cases, people are going to need a criminal defense attorney to represent them. Representing yourself is obviously never a good idea. The old saying is, you'd have a fool for a client, especially when you're looking at potential prison or jail time and your rights being taken away, a criminal record that you can't get off – you definitely want to get a criminal defense attorney.
Types Of Criminal Lawyers
Criminal defense attorneys come in all shapes and sizes. There's private criminal defense attorneys who obviously have their own practice and can take criminal cases as long as they are admitted to practice in the jurisdiction where your case is pending. There's also the public defendant's office. That's a state office and you have to qualify for the public defender. You fill out paperwork.
They're basically looking to see how much money you make and then they can obviously represent you. They still end up charging you a fee at the end, but they are definitely criminal defense attorneys and depending on their skill level they are good at what they do and can represent people in the various Los Angeles criminal courts.
If the public defender has to declare a conflict in a criminal case, then there is something in a lot of the courts called the alternate public defender. They are also paid for by the state. They have their own office and their own structure and they can represent criminal defendants in criminal cases through Los Angeles County.
If the alternate public defender and the public defender both conflict out of the case – in other words, can't represent the person for a reason – maybe they represented some other person involved with the case – then what the courts can do is they can appoint somebody who is on the criminal defense panel, and basically that is someone who is usually a private attorney and they are paid by the state in order to represent people in criminal cases.
Primary Duty of Criminal Attorneys
Your criminal defense attorney basically is tasked with defending you. Either defending you in negotiating a plea with the prosecutors or the judge, or after a confession, or defending you in a jury trial depending on whether or not you have a good criminal case that they can represent you in. The bottom line is you have the right to go to trial if you want in any criminal case. If you say that you're not guilty and you're not taking any deals in the case, then you can force the case to trial and a defense attorney can't stop you from going to trial.
As far as private defense attorneys go, obviously, you have to pay them. They get on your case and you pay them. Usually in criminal defense you're paying them to do each phase of the case. For example, if it's a felony case, most criminal defense attorneys are going to charge you a flat fee to handle the case through the preliminary hearing.
Most criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles are not billing by the hours, although there are examples where they do bill by the hour. I would be suspicious of somebody billing by the hour because that's usually not how a good criminal defense attorney does it. After the preliminary hearing, they can quote you a fee to do the trial and then you can decide to hire them or not hire them. If you can't afford to pay them anymore, then obviously you can get your own public defender, assuming that you meet the qualifications for the public defender.
Attorney Client Privilege
So, a criminal defense attorney is someone who keeps all your secrets. They can't tell any of your information. The attorney/client privilege protects that and obviously, they have a duty of loyalty towards you. A duty not to tell anybody about your case or the secret things that they learn while they're representing you and they obviously have a duty to zealously defend you throughout your criminal case.
So, in my opinion, your best move if you have a criminal case, I always say do it once, do it right and never do it again. If you've got the case you might as well get somebody who is going to fight for you, who you paid money to and who has the time and experience and skill to properly defend you in your criminal case and get you the best possible result. You want to sit down with your criminal defense attorney and go over everything.
Be honest with your criminal defense attorney because if you're not honest, they're not going to be playing with a full deck and they aren't going to be ready to represent you to their fullest because you haven't given them all the detail. I can't tell you how many times I've had cases where clients don't give all the information and they end up suffering. You must give your criminal defense attorney all the information and let them help you make the right decisions in how you handle the case – whether you fight it, whether you negotiate it or you just try to get it dismissed with the judge or the prosecutor's office. But trust your criminal defense attorney.
Listen to them. Let them guide you through the criminal process so you can end up with the best possible result.
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