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Defense Attorneys Responsibilities

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Most people have heard of defense attorneys, but that doesn’t mean they understand exactly what they do or how they help their clients. Defense attorneys are responsible for defending a person who is accused of a crime. These lawyers make sure that their clients’ rights are protected per all applicable local, state, and federal laws.

The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees every person the right to be represented by a qualified attorney. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court mandated that every person who is arrested be informed of this right, and also be informed of the guarantee that if they can’t afford an attorney, the court will provide one. This right is fundamental to the American method of justice, which believes every person is innocent until proven guilty.

A Defense Attorney’s Responsibilities

Defense attorneys are responsible for providing a vigorous and competent defense for their clients. If a defense attorney fails in his duties or does not appropriately represent the client, a client can potentially get a mistrial if convicted and sue a defense attorney for malpractice.

What Constitutes a Competent Defense

Defense attorneys must prepare opening and closing statements, question and cross-examine witnesses, and present defenses in a court of law. If the lawyer fails at any of these tasks, or fails to object when the prosecutor asks an improper question or the judge gives improper instructions, the defense attorney may be considered incompetent. An attorney may also be considered incompetent if he doesn’t file the right requests, or motions, with the court, such as a motion for evidence to be excluded if it was improperly obtained.

Defense attorneys must vigorously represent their clients, even if they think they are guilty. Any possible defenses must be presented. The only limits to a defense attorney’s obligation to present your defense are that a defense attorney cannot knowingly present false information or ask a question that he knows you are going to lie about under oath. An attorney can request that you not tell him certain information, so that he will be unaware of whether you are telling the truth or not when you are put on the stand, but he cannot knowingly help you to lie.

The Importance of the Client’s Wishes

Defense attorneys must also represent the wishes of their client. If you, as a client, want to plead not guilty, it is your attorney’s responsibility to file that plea and prepare your case accordingly. Your defense attorney may not believe that you have a good case, and he can advise you of his expert opinion, but he cannot tell you what to do and he must represent your interests regardless of whether he agrees with your course of action or not.


Defense attorneys must maintain confidentiality in nearly all situations. If you tell your defense attorney where “the bodies are buried” either figuratively or literally, your defense attorney must keep that information secret and cannot disclose it to anyone. An exception to this rule is if you tell your attorney about future fraud or crimes you plan to commit; in this case, the lawyer can be required to reveal this to the court.

Defense Attorneys’ Role in the Criminal Justice System

Defense attorneys play an important role in the criminal justice system. A defense attorney aims to help prevent innocent people from going to prison. Defense attorneys also safeguard constitutional protections, ensuring that due process of the law is followed before a person is convicted of a crime.

It’s important for those accused of a crime to understand the purpose and duties of a defense attorney. Armed with this knowledge, the person can determine whether their lawyer is representing them adequately.

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