What Does a Criminal Lawyer Do?

What does a criminal lawyer do? The simplest answer is he or she defends individuals accused of crimes. However, the process of defending someone is complex and involves numerous activities, which require a diverse skill set. Here’s a glimpse of what a criminal lawyer does for clients.

Research Cases

To build a strong defense for a client, a criminal lawyer must investigate the case thoroughly. While every case is different, criminal lawyers commonly use the following research methods.

Interviewing clients. An initial client interview is an essential part of researching a case. The client usually does not know which facts are relevant. A skilled attorney asks a combination of open-ended and focused questions. The goal is to get a comprehensive picture of what happened from the client’s perspective. The criminal defense lawyer must listen carefully to get the information needed to develop a strategy for the client’s defense.

Reviewing police procedures. A criminal attorney checks to see if the police followed proper procedures with respect to the client’s case. The purpose is to discover if the police made any significant errors such an arrest without probable cause or charges stemming from an illegal vehicle stop. A lawyer who discovers such police impropriety can file a pretrial motion to dismiss the case. If the judge grants the motion, the criminal lawyer has gotten the client the best case scenario of going free without facing a plea bargain or trial.

Interviewing witnesses. Speaking to witnesses is an integral part of collecting information regarding the case. Since the prosecution reveals its witnesses during the discovery process, a criminal attorney also attempts to interview witnesses for the opposing side. The prosecution cannot forbid its witnesses from speaking to the defense. However, the criminal defense attorney cannot compel the prosecution’s witnesses to submit to an interview.

Reviewing additional evidence. In addition to interviews and police conduct, a criminal lawyer looks at all other available sources of evidence. Additional evidence usually includes information the prosecution reveals during the discovery process.

Getting the right expert witnesses. In some cases, a criminal attorney seeks the services of witnesses whose expertise is relevant to the available evidence. Often, the job of the expert witness is to show how the evidence supports claims by the defense. Alternatively, the defense lawyer may bring in an expert witness to refute what the prosecution says the evidence means.

Negotiate with Prosecutors

Sometimes, achieving the best outcome for the clients means the criminal attorney must negotiate with prosecutors for a plea bargain. In this scenario, advocacy for the client may include getting charges dropped or a lesser punishment. Negotiating with prosecutors is a big part of a criminal lawyer’s job since far more cases are resolved with plea bargains than with trials.

Represent Clients in Court

When a criminal case goes to court, the criminal attorney participates in jury selection. The lawyer removes potential jurors who appear to be hostile toward the defense. During the trial, the lawyer makes opening and closing statements, questions witnesses, and performs other advocacy on the client’s behalf.

Keep Clients Informed

Providing clients with excellent customer service is an important component of a criminal attorney’s work. Clients expect regular updates on the progress of their cases. Not meeting customer service expectations is one reason clients fire their criminal lawyer.


Criminal defense lawyers have to produce a tremendous amount of documents. Motions, appeals, and briefs are examples of legal documents criminal lawyers write in the course of their work.

If you need a Minneapolis criminal lawyer to assist you, contact us to discuss your situation today.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.