When it comes to the justice system in America, defendants are put on trial for a crime they have been accused of committing. On one side of the argument is the prosecution. On the other, representing the defendant, is the criminal attorney. It is his job to cross examine witnesses testifying against the defendant, present an argument in front of the jury, and much more. It is his job to try and get his client off the hook, or at least reduce the charges and penalties as much as possible.
For the most part, a criminal attorney will not involve himself in civil cases of any kind. The two types of cases are handled in different venues and there are differences all along the way when it comes to how these cases are laid out. For one, there is a different standard of proof. In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil trial, the jury only requires that a preponderance of the evidence proves the defendant is guilty. One famous example of this difference was found in the O.J. Simpson trials of the 90s.
While this isn’t always the case, it is common for a criminal attorney to specialize in only a few types of cases. For instance, there are many lawyers making a great living defending those who have been charged with driving infractions such as DUI. Then there are others who make their living taking on murder cases and other serious crimes. A person who has been charged with a crime would do well to seek out a lawyer who specializes in the type of case they are bringing.
There is a confidentiality agreement between a criminal attorney and their client. Ethics and the law both require that a lawyer keep any information a client should reveal to him between him and the client. This is in place for a number of reasons. One, it allows the defendant to be comfortable telling his lawyer anything he wants, as it may help his case. Two, it prevents a situation where the prosecution could call the lawyer up to the stand to testify against his own client. There are a few exceptions to the rule, however. For instance, if a client tells his lawyer he is going to commit a new crime, the lawyer is required to disclose that information to the proper authorities.