Criminal law is a complex system of laws that relate to criminal offences. It regulates the apprehension, charging, trial, and conviction of accused individuals. Punishment and rehabilitation of convicted people also fall in this field of law. Criminal law differs from civil law because the government (the prosecution) brings charges against the accused person. In civil law, private parties and entities file lawsuits to resolve disputes between them.
What Does a Criminal Lawyer Do?
Most criminal lawyers deal with a wide range of criminal cases, including driving under the influence of alcohol, theft, fraud, assault, murder, and sex crimes. The scope of their work ranges from researching case law, statutes, criminal procedure rules, to investigating cases, interviewing witnesses, negotiating with prosecutors, drafting, filing motions, and fighting for their clients in court.
Criminal lawyers need a variety of skills to succeed in their job. They must have excellent writing and advocacy skills; must research and investigate meticulously; have strong analytical skills to analyse case law and litigate complex cases. The stakes are always high when a person needs a criminal lawyer.
In Singapore, the consequences of a conviction on a criminal charge can be life-changing. A conviction can result in heavy penalties, including imprisonment and fines. A criminal record can affect your future employment and educational opportunities, family relationships, and personal freedom.
Risks that You Could Face if You Don’t Have a Defence Lawyer.
- You could be falsely accused.
- You could be convicted when you are, in fact, innocent.
- You could be sent to prison for something you didn’t do.
The stakes are high when facing criminal prosecution. You need the help of an expert. If you are accused of a crime, you should speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. A defence lawyer will help you to understand and protect your rights.
How Can a Criminal Lawyer Help You?
Criminal lawyers understand the complex criminal law system and will guide you through each step of the process. Your conduct in each step may have serious consequences that could affect the outcome of your case. A criminal defence lawyer can act on your behalf at the earliest opportunity and help you to mitigate the potential consequences of being charged with a criminal offence.
The best criminal defence starts long before the case is in court.
Criminal defence lawyers usually have a professional relationship with the prosecuting authorities from working together in the same area of law. This may allow them to negotiate affordable bail, a plea deal, or even get the charges against you reduced. Your defence lawyer’s relationship with the prosecutor may ultimately help to get a better outcome for your case.
Let’s look at how an excellent criminal defence lawyer can help you at various steps of the criminal justice process.
At Arrest or During the Investigation
In Singapore, the police may arrest you without a warrant if they have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime. In cases that require an investigation before arrests are made, the police would need a warrant to arrest you. The police may detain you for 48 hours before taking you to court.
You don’t want to be remanded in custody pending the outcome of your case. Your lawyer can speak to the police to request your release from detention, either on bail or on a personal promise to return or attend court on a specific date. If you need a bail application, it is crucial to get it right the first time. A defence lawyer will help you to prepare and present your bail application. A criminal lawyer knows what to focus on to persuade the court to release you from custody.
Interaction with the Police
An experienced criminal lawyer knows what the police are allowed to do. Your lawyer can ensure that the police do not infringe your rights. If any evidence is obtained improperly, a defence lawyer can get that evidence thrown out of court.
If you are required to attend a formal interview, you might be unsure of what to say. A defence lawyer will explain your rights and advise you on the best strategy before entering an interview or interrogation. They understand the tactics and nuances of police interviews.
The police or the prosecuting authority will ask you whether you wish to plead guilty or defend your case. Advice that you receive from a criminal lawyer at this stage is crucial for the outcome of your case. A criminal lawyer will evaluate your case and the evidence against you and advise on the best possible approach for your case. It is not always easy, for example, to decide whether to accept a deal offered by the prosecution. A defence lawyer will help you consider the offer and explain the consequences of accepting an offer. Sometimes, it is in your best interest to take a plea deal or plead guilty and fight for fair and just sentencing.
Although it is not labelled “plea bargaining” in Singapore, your defence lawyer can negotiate with the prosecution for an agreed case disposal. This may be done in writing or in person.
The Criminal Case Management System allows the prosecution and defence counsel to meet in private to narrow down the issues. The Criminal Case Resolution Program provides for the prosecution, the defence counsel, and the accused to negotiate for an agreed case disposal for all parties in the presence of a judge. An experienced defence lawyer can play an essential role in the outcome of these proceedings.
Whether to enter plea bargaining or defend your case in court is your choice. A criminal lawyer will advise you on the consequences of your decision. If you decide to defend your case in court after proper consultation with your lawyer, a defence lawyer will advise you on the best defence strategy.
A criminal lawyer will investigate your case before deciding on the best defence strategy. They will look at how the police handled your case and how they obtained the evidence. They will interview witnesses and evaluate the information and whether the witnesses are reliable or not. A defence lawyer knows when expert evidence is needed. They have the skills to assess any expert evidence the prosecution wishes to bring against you.
An experienced criminal lawyer can identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. They know which evidence is admissible or not and make sure that any inadmissible evidence is not used against you. A defence lawyer will also have relationships with experts such as medical professionals and private investigators to consult with about your case. Once they’ve analysed all the evidence against you and compared it to your version of events, they can advise you on a solid defence strategy.
Representing You in Court
Appearing in court can be very stressful for the accused. The rules of evidence are complex. Criminal lawyers are familiar with the process and will guide you through each step of the court proceedings. They will assist you in presenting your case and test each aspect of the prosecution’s case. A defence lawyer knows what questions to ask and how to frame the questions. They will deal with the witnesses and use their skills to test and cross-examine prosecution witnesses effectively. They can make strategic decisions such as whether you should testify in your defence, whether to call witnesses, or whether you need to present expert evidence. These decisions can determine the outcome of your case. A defence lawyer understands the implications of such strategic decisions and will present your evidence correctly and effectively.
Assist with Sentencing
A criminal lawyer will explain to you that no one can ever guarantee a specific outcome. If the decision goes against you, or you decide to plead guilty, an experienced lawyer can make a significant difference in your sentencing. They understand sentencing laws and options. They will be aware of any alternative sentencing options. There might be a sentencing programme that could keep you out of prison. Alternatively, your lawyer may persuade the court to suspend your sentence instead of sending your straight to imprisonment. Your lawyer can put together a persuasive argument based on your circumstances and the facts of the case to get you the best possible sentence.
In Singapore, your life and liberty can be at stake when charged with a criminal offence. A criminal lawyer will give you solid legal advice to get the best outcome in court and guide you to make the right decisions. You cannot risk leaving anything to chance when facing criminal prosecution. Nothing replaces experience when dealing with the Singapore criminal justice system.