defense counsel | definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Defense counsel refers to a lawyer retained for and usually specializing in the defense of a person accused of a crime.

Defense counsel, also known as a defense attorney or defense lawyer, is a legal professional who represents an individual charged with a crime. The role of defense counsel is to ensure that the defendant’s rights are protected and that they receive a fair trial. This includes advising the defendant on their legal options, investigating the charges against them, and presenting evidence in their defense.

Defense counsel is a critical component of the criminal justice system, as they play a vital role in ensuring that the defendant receives a fair trial. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to counsel for criminal defendants, which means that anyone accused of a crime has the right to an attorney. This right is essential to protect the defendant’s interests and to ensure that they are not wrongfully convicted.

The role of defense counsel begins at the time of the defendant’s arrest. The attorney’s job is to advise the defendant of their rights and to ensure that law enforcement officials do not violate those rights during the arrest process. Defense counsel will also investigate the charges against the defendant, including interviewing witnesses, reviewing evidence, and conducting research on relevant laws and legal precedents.

During the trial, the defense counsel’s primary role is to represent the defendant and challenge the prosecution’s case. This includes cross-examining witnesses, presenting evidence in the defendant’s favor, and making arguments to the judge and jury. Defense counsel must also ensure that the defendant’s constitutional rights are protected throughout the trial, including the right to a fair trial, the right to due process, and the right against self-incrimination.

If the defendant is found guilty, defense counsel may still play a role in the sentencing phase of the trial. They may present evidence in mitigation of the defendant’s sentence, such as evidence of their good character or evidence that they are unlikely to re-offend.

In addition to representing individual clients, defense counsel may also work for public defender’s offices, which provide legal representation for indigent defendants who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. Public defenders play an important role in the criminal justice system, as they ensure that all defendants receive competent legal representation, regardless of their ability to pay for it.

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Last Modified: 3/30/2023


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