A defense lawyer is an attorney that represents
an accused party in legal matters, including in a court of law.
The accused party is known as the defendant, hence the name,
defense lawyer. (the one accused)
Many defense lawyers start out as prosecutors for the state.
The prosecutor is there as an agent of the state, acting in
the interest of the victim, but not representing them directly.
Criminal proceedings, where there is a prosecutor, don't have
a plaintiff, the state may bring charges against
the defendant is a public agency. If a party is charged with
a crime and cannot afford to hire a private defense lawyer,
the state will assign an attorney to represent the defendant.
Though there are many talented state-appointed defense lawyer,
accused parties with means usually hire their own defense lawyer
In a criminal proceeding, the job of the defense lawyer is to
vigorously defend his or her client by using the law to cast
reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case. It is up to the
prosecutor to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt
that the defendant is guilty.
The defense lawyer does not have to prove the
innocence of his or her client, as the law dictates that a person
is innocent by default until proven guilty. However, if evidence
exists that can exonerate a client, it is up to the defense
lawyer to bring this evidence out when possible.
While it is incumbent on a defense lawyer to vigorously represent
the client, there are limits. A defense lawyer cannot knowingly
place a witness on the stand to perpetrate a lie, nor can a
defense lawyer knowingly lie to the court. For this reason,
in high profile cases, it is not unusual that a defense lawyer
will not want to know if the client is guilty. Without that
absolute knowledge, the defense strategy can remain more flexible.
Conversely, depending on the circumstances, it might help a
defense lawyer to know the truth in order to strategize a mitigation
of punishment by presenting the case in the best possible light,
making allowances where there is no plausible denial. This might
be the case if there is undisputed truth of guilt.
Many of these cases are plea-bargained before
they reach court or tried in hopes of getting a lesser sentence
for the client, or even acquittal if there are sufficient mitigating
In a civil proceeding, the job of a defense lawyer becomes tougher,
because the threshold of guilt is lowered to a 51% preponderance
of the evidence. Often, when defendants are found “not guilty”
in criminal trials, the victims pursue civil remedies for financial
Civil courts do not hand down prison sentences.
While a prosecutor can make a respectable salary, a high profile
defense lawyer is one of the most lucrative careers in law.
Defendants with assets that face possible prison terms are willing
to pay the best lawyers to ensure the greatest possible chance
of avoiding prison. Cases that go on for months can cost defendants
millions of dollars.
A high-profile defense lawyer is also often a celebrity due
to the notoriety of their cases.
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