Unless you happen to work in the legal field, or you have a lawyer in the family, you probably know very little about the various different types of lawyers and the areas of the law in which they specialize. You are not alone. Thee average person has no reason to know much about the details of practicing law — until they need a lawyer to represent them. Furthermore, you likely know even less about what criminal lawyers do, and how they are different from other lawyers, because most people manage to go through their entire life without ever needing the services of a criminal lawyer. If, however, you now find yourself in need of a criminal attorney, either for yourself or for a loved one, you may be wondering how criminal lawyers are different from other lawyers. More importantly, do you really need a “criminal lawyer” or can you just use the lawyer you use for business related legal matters? The answer is that you do need a criminal lawyer if you have been charged with a criminal offense or are the target of a criminal investigation. There are a number of important ways in which criminal lawyers differ from other types of lawyers which is why you definitely want a criminal lawyer representing you if you are a suspect or a defendant.
The American Judicial System — The Basics
To understand how criminal lawyers are different than other lawyers it helps to start with a broad understanding of the American judicial system. The United States operates under a federalist form of government, meaning we have a strong central government (the federal government), along with numerous smaller semi-autonomous governments (the individual state governments). Consequently, we also have two sets of judicial systems — federal and state. A criminal offense, therefore, can be filed as a federal crime, a state crime, or both in some cases.
Civil vs. Criminal Judicial Systems
At both the federal level and the state level, the judicial system are further broadly divided into civil and criminal judicial systems. Although there are some specialty courts, such as bankruptcy court or tax court, most legal matters are heard in either civil court or criminal court. While the basic tenets of the law apply in both systems, the similarities tend to stop there. Everything from the court rules of procedure to the evidentiary rules are different in the two systems.
How Is a Criminal Lawyer’s Job Different?
As long as an attorney is properly licensed, he/she is allowed to practice in any court. Most attorneys, however, tend to focus their practice on either civil or criminal law because of the differences in how the two types of law are handled on a practical basis. Civil law, for example, tends to be heavily pleading based, meaning most of the work is done in an office conducting research and arguing points in writing. Criminal law, on the other hand, is practiced in a courtroom. A criminal lawyer spends the majority of his/her time in court arguing motions, negotiating agreements, or trying cases. Consequently, a criminal lawyer develops strong relationships with court staff, prosecutors, probation officers, judges, and anyone else involved in the criminal court system. These relationships, along with the experience a criminal law attorney gets from being in the courtroom on a regular basis, are invaluable to a defendant. Obviously, both types of lawyers are necessary in our judicial system. The key is knowing which type of attorney you need. Just as you would not consult with a podiatrist if you had a heart condition, you should not hire a divorce attorney if you have been charged with a criminal offense. The converse is, of course, also true. If you are contemplating divorce, it only makes sense to consult with a family law attorney instead of a criminal law attorney. The bottom line is that criminal lawyers understand the criminal justice system and know how to defend you if you have been charged with a criminal offense.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal lawyers at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.