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What does a criminal defense lawyer do?

The Carolina Law Group > Blog  > What does a criminal defense lawyer do?

What does a criminal defense lawyer do?

Nihar Patel | The Carolina Law Group

Nihar Patel | The Carolina Law Group

If you’re ever charged with a crime, you want an experienced and effective criminal defense attorney by your side. A criminal defense lawyer can help throughout the process, from arrest or pre-arrest through plea deal or trial and beyond.

You probably have an idea of what criminal defense lawyers do from what you’ve seen on TV and in the movies, but that only shows part of the picture (and an overly dramatic one at that). So what exactly does a criminal defense attorney do?

Criminal Defense Attorneys Represent Clients Charged with a Crime or Crimes

This may sound obvious, but it’s an important point, and one of the main things that set criminal defense attorneys apart: Criminal defense lawyers defend their clients against charges brought by the state or federal government for breaking the law. This can be so-called “blue collar” crimes like criminal traffic offenses, drug offences, larceny, battery, sexual assault, and murder, as well as so-called “white collar” crimes like embezzlement, fraud, and environmental violations.

Public defenders also represent people charged with crimes, but they are paid by the government whereas criminal defense attorneys are paid by their clients. Public defenders are appointed by the court to represent qualified defendants who cannot afford to hire a private attorney.

Criminal defense attorneys are unique among lawyers in that their clients potentially face extremely serious consequences, including a permanent criminal record, probation, incarceration, and, in the most extreme cases, even execution. No other lawyer has the burden of knowing that if they don’t secure a good outcome for their client, their client’s life could end.

Advises You on Your Rights

You know you have a right to remain silent and you have the right to an attorney, rights guaranteed you by the U.S. Constitution, but you have other rights under the law that you may not know about. A criminal defense attorney will inform you of your rights and advise you on how to exercise them to protect yourself. They will prevent others from violating your rights if, for example, a police officer tries to continue interrogating you after you’ve asserted your right to remain silent.

Criminal defense attorneys advise clients of their rights after they’ve been arrested, but they can also work with clients before any arrest or charges have occurred. This can happen if the client believes they are being investigated in connection to a crime, may be arrested soon, and/or law enforcement wants to talk to them. In these situations, it’s advisable to speak to an attorney first.

Interviews, Investigates, and Builds a Strong Case

During the initial interview after arrest, the attorney finds out what happened (from their client’s point of view) and gathers information. This is a starting point for devising a defense strategy.

Depending on the nature of the charges, your attorney may take steps to investigate to build a strong case. They might talk to the police officers involved, speak with witnesses, hire independent experts to review evidence, and more.

A strong case is essential if your case goes to court, but it can also help avoid a trial, too. If the prosecutor isn’t confident that they can secure a guilty verdict at trial because they see your attorney has built a strong case, they may choose to negotiate a plea deal instead. 

Negotiates with the Prosecutor

It’s estimated that less than 5% of criminal cases go to trial, while the remaining 95%+ are settled before going to court. That means that negotiating plea deals with the prosecutor (or “solicitor,” in South Carolina) is a large part, and an important part, of what a criminal defense lawyer does.

Your criminal defense lawyer will fight for your rights and keep your best interests in mind while agreeing on terms of a plea agreement with the prosecutor that is fair and just under the law. However, you as the defendant always have the last word when it comes to accepting or rejecting a plea agreement.

Represents You in Court

Even if your case doesn’t end up going to trial, you may still find yourself before a judge at some point, and this is when it’s smart to have a criminal defense lawyer by your side. Courtroom proceedings are formal and regimented, with strict procedures to follow that most non-lawyers are not familiar with. A criminal defense attorney can help you navigate those proceedings, work to reduce or eliminate your bail, and represent you in hearings.

If your case does go to trial, your criminal defense attorney will represent you in court and present the case they have been building to the judge and/or jury. If found guilty, they can represent you during the sentencing hearing and help you appeal the verdict, too.

Facing Criminal Charges in South Carolina? Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys of The Carolina Law Group

Trustworthy legal representation is important all the time, but arguably never more important than when faced with criminal charges.

We know how important it is to have an aggressive and effective attorney representing you when you’ve been charged with a crime. At The Carolina Law Group, we fight to protect the rights of our clients both in and out of court, and we’re not hesitant to go to trial if needed. With two former prosecutors (Monty and Mitchell) and a former defender (Nihar) in the firm, we have the knowledge and experience in the local criminal court system that helps us represent our clients effectively and secure a fair and just outcome.

Criminal charges we help clients with include:

  •       Driving under suspension
  •       Drug offenses
  •       Larceny
  •       White collar crimes
  •       And more

If you’ve been charged with a crime in South Carolina, contact us at one of the numbers below to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.

The Carolina Law Group has four offices in South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), Spartanburg (principal office; call 864.757.5555), and West Columbia (principal office; call 803.881.1110). 

Call us at one of our four offices or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with one of our attorneys. Our business hours are Monday – Thursday 8:30am – 5:30pm & Friday 8:30 am – 5 pm. Weekend and evening hours by appointment only.


Mr. Patel worked for the Greenville County Public Defender’s Office in 2005 after graduating from law school. While there, Mr. Patel handled thousands of cases ranging from low-level misdemeanors to high-profile murders. In March 2011, Mr. Patel and Mr. Desai formed The Carolina Law Group. Mr. Patel practices in the areas of criminal defense, family law, and personal injury. In 2011, Mr. Patel was elected as the President of the Greenville Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (GACDL).

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