Whatever the charge, be it a felony or misdemeanor, or even a more serious offense like murder or rape, a criminal defense attorney is always an important individual to possess. Even if the defendant is ultimately acquitted of the charges, a criminal defense lawyer can still be able to represent him in court, whatever the outcome. This is so because he has the right to speak for his client before a judge or the jury. This is called ‘rights of the accused’ – and these rights give the criminal defense lawyer all the rights that a judge, prosecutor or jury would have had the client pay for if he had been convicted.
It is the right of an accused individual to have a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. This is actually the right that every human being is entitled to. This is the right that each and every one of us have, until we are proven guilty, which is not likely, especially when dealing with the justice system. In our country, the presumption of innocence applies even to persons charged with committing crimes, irrespective of their state of residence or activity, and even for those accused of lesser offenses. This is the reason why there is no such thing as “innocent until proven guilty” in the US justice system.
However, the exception to the presumption of innocence applies only during the pretrial stage of a criminal case. This is where the person charged with the crime still has the opportunity to prove his or her innocence, and the prosecution has to prove its negative. This is known as the arraignment.
The arraignment, which is the very first hearing in a criminal case, is the time at which a defendant enters a plea of either “not guilty”, “guilty but mentally unfit”, “not guilty but not guilty” or “not guilty”. It is the very first step in a trial and is generally attended by the prosecuting authorities, the accused, their lawyers and other witnesses. It is also the time at which the jury is taken into consideration. If the accused enters a guilty plea, he or she must enter a plea of “not guilty” to the entire felony charge; however, if they choose to go for the “guilty but mentally unfit” option, they must do so only if their mental capacity is below the minimum legal standard.
Once the arraignment has been completed, the defendant and the prosecuting authorities will now enter what is called an agreement of facts. This agreement of facts is what will determine if a person will go to trial, be found guilty, be given a formal sentence or be released. In a plea bargain, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will agree on all facts of the case in exchange for the suspect not having to face trial. If a person chooses not to enter a plea bargain, he or she must face the charges for their criminal actions.
When a defendant enters a plea bargain, he or she will not have to go to court, but instead will discuss their case with a public defender. The public defender will explain to the accused why a plea bargain may be a good idea. For example, if a defendant may receive ten years in prison, but thinks that the amount he could receive if found guilty is much lower, the public defender may be able to help arrange a deal where the defendant could serve only five years in prison, with the remainder of the time going towards a rehabilitation program. Even if a person is convicted of a crime that carries the maximum penalty under the law, a criminal defense lawyer can help get the person a reduced sentence through the assistance they give to the accused. Click here for more about hiring the best criminal defense attorney.