Criminal lawyers are highly specialized lawyers that have obtained at least a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree and have passed the bar examination in the state in which they practice. Many lawyers are licensed in many states because states have reciprocal agreements which recognized the license of a lawyer in one state as having one in their own.
Criminal lawyers deal with state, or federal, prosecutions of laws that have been broken which may lead to serious penalties such as incarceration. A lawyer will either be a prosecutor, or a defense attorney. Prosecutors represent the state. The defense attorney represents a client that has been charged with the violation of a criminal law statue. In American jurisprudence, lawyers usually work for the prosecution or defense. They have been known to cross over from one side to the other in their career, but they do not, as a rule, jump back and forth from one side to the other.
The lawyers working for the prosecution have what is called “the burden of proof.” What this means is that they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed by the person charged. They put on their case before the defense presents its case. If for some reason they do not meet the burden of proof requirement, the case is dismissed. One advantage criminal lawyers working for the prosecution has is all the resources and money a state has to offer. The funding helps them gather all the evidence and experts they need to try to prove their case.
The defense attorney is a criminal lawyer representing the accused party. It is their charge to raise “reasonable doubt” that the person perpetrated the crime. If reasonable doubt is established, then the defense wins the case and the person is absolved of the charges against them.
Criminal lawyers on either side of the spectrum are very committed to their specialty of law. Prosecutors believe that no one is above the law and everyone should be held to the same standards of behavior. A defense attorney relies heavily on the belief that all parties, whether guilty or innocent, should have equal representation so they are not incarcerated unjustly.
Somewhere around 26% of criminal lawyers are in solo practice. This excludes the lawyers who are working for the state department. Many such government lawyers for the defense take cases “pro bono” which means without charge.