Understanding a Criminal Defense Attorney

A criminal defense attorney can help you through your arrest, booking, plea, arraignment, and preparation for future court appearances.

Your criminal defense attorney can guide you through the entire legal process, from arrest to court appearance. Throughout this process, you may hear some legal jargon that’s unfamiliar to you. In order to avoid confusion and embarrassment throughout the process of arrest, litigation, and sentencing, it may help you to review the meanings of some key legal terms for aspects of the process.


While this term is probably familiar to you, you may not be aware that your being arrested does not mean that you will be presumed to be guilty; it simply means that you have been accused of a crime and are being taken into custody. If you suspect an impending arrest, it’s best to seek out a criminal defense attorney before that arrest takes place so that you can be advised about how to handle the situation, as well as to possibly negotiate on your behalf, in order to avoid the arrest.


This is the event following an arrest, in which the police take you to the station, separate you from your personal belongings, take your photograph (or mugshot), and get your fingerprints. If the crime of which you’ve been accused is a misdemeanor, you may actually be released after the booking. In some cases, you will be held in jail until a court date, or until bail is posted. In some circumstances, it’s possible that a criminal defense attorney could arrange for you to be released until that date on your “own recognizance.”


After a waiting period, you’ll be asked to come to court for an arraignment. This initial appearance in court will serve to inform you of the details surrounding the charges brought against you. At this time, your criminal defense attorney will be provided with a copy of the complaints, as well as any other documents relating to the crime with which you’re being charged.


It’s important to note that your lawyer may advise you to “plea” differently than you would think. For instance, even if you are admittedly guilty of the crime, a lawyer might recommend a “not guilty” plea in order to lay the burden of proof on the prosecution. Basically, if your defender thinks that the prosecutor would have a hard time proving your guilt, a “not guilty” plea may well be in your best interest. If your case does end up in court, any doubt of your guilt in the minds of jurors should prompt your release.


Any information or evidence that’s been obtained in an illegal manner is disallowed from being used to prosecute or defend you. Part of a lawyer’s job is to determine whether any such details are being used by the prosecution as well as to make sure not to attempt to use such information to defend you.

As your criminal defense attorney guides you through this sometimes confusing process, you can at least feel a bit less frustrated when you understand the basic steps involved.