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Criminal Defense Lawyers

At Lawyer Legion, we created this information center on criminal defense topics and resources for finding a qualified attorney. 

Browse our directory to find the best criminal defense attorney for your case. Our directory lets you find attorneys recognized as leaders in the field of criminal law and/or DUI defense law. Narrow your search to find board-certified specialists in criminal law. 

Learn more about the practice of criminal law in the United States, including government and court resources, an overview of state and federal criminal laws, and common answers to legal questions.

Lawyer Legion Criminal Defense Information Center

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Criminal Defense Lawyers

Best Criminal Defense Attorneys in the United States

Lawyer Legion Top Picks for 2024

The following list was determined using a number of factors including both objective and subjective criteria. Lawyers were selected based on their career accomplishments, high-profile cases, professional involvement, community leadership, and board certifications. This list includes many of the most highly accomplished criminal defense lawyers currently practicing in the United States.

When reviewing this list, please be aware of each of the following:

  • Lawyers cannot pay to be included in this list.
  • Only lawyers who are active on Lawyer Legion were selected.
  • It is difficult to compare lawyers who practice in different states across the country.
  • It is impossible to accurately determine a national list of attorneys who are actually “the best” at practicing criminal law (but our list comes close).
Gerald Harris Goldstein
Goldstein & Orr
San Antonio, TX
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Cynthia Eva Hujar Orr
Goldstein & Orr
San Antonio, TX
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Richard Hornsby
Richard E. Hornsby, P.A.
Orlando, FL
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Ross C. Goodman
Goodman Criminal Defense Attorney
Las Vegas, NV
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Edward A Mallett
Mallett Saper Berg, LLP
Houston, TX
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John Wesley Hall Jr
John Wesley Hall Jr. P.C.
Little Rock, AR
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Terri R Zimmermann
Zimmermann Lavine & Zimmermann, P.C.
Houston, TX
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George Henry Newman
Newman & Associates, P.C.
Philadelphia, PA
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William C. Head
William C. Head, PC
Atlanta, GA
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John W Tumelty
Law Office Of John W. Tumelty
Marmora, NJ
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More Noteworthy Criminal Defense Attorneys

15 Best Criminal Defense Website Designs

15 Best Criminal Defense Website Designs - Internet Lava designs websites exclusively for criminal defense lawyers. Take a look at the 15 best criminal defense websites designed and developed by Internet Lava. What makes these websites so great goes far beyond the aesthetic qualities. These websites are optimized for dominating organic search rankings by providing rich and informative content about specific crimes, statutes and defenses. These law firms have achieved unparalleled results from their website's organic visibility and overall internet presence. Internet Lava offers exclusive projects, meaning they provide services to only one criminal defense firm per market. Learn more by checking out these 15 websites by Internet Lava.

Criminal Defense Legal Resources

Helpful Videos

Our Firm's Purpose - Goldstein & Orr

The Intersection of Hip Hop, Racism and Criminal Justice - Drew Findling

Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Daniel R. Perlman on Fox News

Criminal Defense Bar Associations and Legal Organizations

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) - Founded in 1958, NACDL is the largest organization for criminal defense lawyers fighting to preserve fairness within America's criminal justice system. The organization has more than 10,000 direct members including criminal defense attorneys in private practice, public defenders in state or federal court, U.S. military defense counsel, law professors and judges.
American Board of Criminal Lawyers (ABCL) - The ABCL is an elite invitation-only organization of some of the best criminal defense attorneys in the United States. Founded in 1978, the mission of ABCL is to protect the preservation and exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms for those accused of crimes while promoting excellence in the practice of criminal defense. Fellows in ABCL have extensive experience with complex criminal matters such as white collar crime, criminal appeals, and federal crimes as well as other areas.
DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DUIDLA) - The DUIDLA is a nonprofit organization providing training and resources to DUI defense lawyers practicing in the U.S. and Canada. Attorneys represent those accused of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and other traffic and intoxication-related offenses. The DUI Defense Lawyers Association also provides continuing legal education (CLE) seminars.
National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) - The NAPD is devoted to public defense professionals and advocates for the constitutional right to counsel and access to justice for poor people. The National Association for Public Defense formed as an inclusive association of public defense practitioners to address the issue of fairness in America's criminal courts. The organization's members include lawyers, social workers, case managers, investigators, paralegals, educators, and others who are critical to the right to counsel.
National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) - The National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) is a non-profit, professional organization of attorneys focused on criminal defense who represent those accused of drunk driving, driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) and related charges. The NCDD was formed in 1995 and consists of some of the most knowledgeable and successful DUI defense attorneys in the United States.
National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) - The NJDC is a nonprofit that supports criminal defense attorneys and public defenders who represent children in juvenile court. The National Juvenile Defender Center's mission is to “promote justice for all children by ensuring excellence in juvenile defense.” The organization advocates for juvenile justice reform across the United States. Members of the organization are provided with a platform to exchange information and build partnerships.
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) - NORML is a nonprofit organization founded in 1970 which works toward ending prohibition and establishing a legal marketplace for responsible adult use of cannabis. The National Legal Committee is made up of criminal defense lawyers and other civil attorneys throughout the United States. The NLC provides resources and training to attorneys on the front lines of defending those accused of marijuana-related crimes and working to reform the laws.

Specialty Certifications in Criminal Law

National Board of Trial Advocacy
Criminal Trial Law - The specialty area of Criminal Trial Law is offered by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) to lawyers. To earn NBTA board certification, the criminal defense attorney must show substantial involvement in at least 45 days of trial, must have served as lead counsel in jury cases through verdict; conducted direct examinations and cross-examinations, and conducted a specified number of voir dire, opening statements and closing arguments.
National College for DUI Defense
DUI Defense Law - The National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) is an organization that grants specialty or board certification for DUI Defense Law. The ABA has recognized the NCDD as an organization that is accredited to award certification in this specialty area of the law. The purpose of granting board certification in DUI Defense Law is to recognize DUI and DWI lawyers who focus their practice on representing men and women accused of drunk and impaired driving offenses. In order to qualify for board certification in "DUI Defense Law," the attorney must meet specific qualifications and apply for board certification with NCDD.
State Bar of Arizona Board of Legal Specialization
Criminal Law - To become a certified specialist in criminal law, the Arizona attorney must show that during a specified period, the attorney devoted at least have of his or her time spent in the full-time practice of law to "matters in which issues of criminal law are significant factors." The Arizona Board of Legal Specialization ("BLS") was granted authority to set the standards for certification in criminal law in accordance with the Rules and Regulations of the BLS established by the Arizona Board of Governors.
State Bar of California
Appellate Law - Attorneys who are board certified in Appellate Law by The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization have demonstrated significant knowledge and experience in the areas of civil and criminal appeals. Lawyers represent people throughout the appellate law process in both state and federal appellate courts, including the California Court of Appeals, the Federal Court of Appeals, the California Supreme Court, or the United States Supreme Court.
State Bar of California
Criminal Law - In California, attorneys can become certified as a Criminal Law Specialist by the State Bar of California's Board of Legal Specialization (CBLS). Board-certified attorneys include criminal defense attorneys in private practice, public defenders, or prosecutors. These attorneys work within the criminal justice system at the local, state, or federal level.
The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education
Criminal Trial Law - The field of criminal law as a specialty practice area for certification was originally established in 1987. The Florida Board of Legal Specialization and Education (BLSE) of The Florida Bar governs the rules and policies for each of the certification areas. An attorney who is a member in good standing and has met the requirements for certification may be issued an appropriate certificate identifying the lawyer as either "Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law" or "Board Certified in Criminal Appellate Law."
The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education
Criminal Appellate Law - The standards for board certification in criminal appellate law can be found in Rule 6-8. The purpose of the standards is to identify those lawyers who practice criminal law and have the special knowledge, skills, and proficiency, as well as the character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism, to be properly identified to the public as a board-certified in appellate law. Also, the certification is awarded by the Florida Board of Legal Specialization and Education (BLSE).
The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education
Juvenile Law - Learn more about how attorneys can become Board Certification in Juvenile Law in Florida. The minimum standards for juvenile law certification are explained in Rule 6-29.3. Task requirements include handling of at least 10 fully adjudicated trials or appellate proceedings arising from petitions for dependency, termination of parental rights, or delinquency, of which occurred during the five years immediately preceding application.
Minnesota State Bar Association
Criminal Law - The Minnesota State Bar Association offers board certification in the practice of criminal law for lawyers who pass the requirements. Once lawyers are certified, they may advertise themselves as Criminal Law Specialists. To become certified, the lawyer must demonstrate substantial involvement in the practice of criminal law, pass a written examination, have served as principal counsel for the required number of jury trials, and submit references from other lawyers and judges.
New Jersey Board on Attorney Certification
Criminal Trial Law - The New Jersey Supreme Court Board on Attorney Certification offers board certification as a specialist in criminal trial law for attorneys who pass the requirements. The attorney must demonstrate a substantial level of experience in criminal trial practice, have been favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges, fulfill ongoing legal education requirements, and pass a written examination. This certification program helps the public identify attorneys who have been designated as proficient in criminal defense law.
North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization
Juvenile Delinquency Law - Attorneys who earn certification as a specialist in juvenile delinquency law must meet certain standards for substantial involvement, specific task requirements, peer review, examination, and completion of continuing legal education requirements. Juvenile delinquency law is generally considered to be a subset of the larger category of criminal law. Also, it is known as juvenile justice, juvenile defense, or prosecution in juvenile court.
North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization
Criminal Law State - The North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization established criminal law as a specialty area of law. North Carolina's board certification program plays an important role in helping the public find the best attorney for their particular case. The attorney that applies for certification as a specialist in criminal law must show substantial involvement in the specialty area through the performance of substantive legal work including significant criminal trial experiences through a certain number of criminal jury trials.
Ohio State Bar Association
Appellate Law - The Ohio Bar certified lawyers as specialists in the practice of appellate law. This includes lawyers practicing both civil appeals and criminal appeals. Once an eligible lawyer meets all the requirements they become board certified by the Ohio Bar for the practice of appellate law. This provides the public with a way to determine that a lawyer has demonstrated substantial involvement and met the certification requirements for the practice of appellate law in Ohio.
Texas Board of Legal Specialization
Criminal Law - In Texas, the specialty area of criminal law was created in 1975. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS) certifies attorneys who have met the required standards. For instance, an attorney applying to become board certified in criminal law must demonstrate that at least 25% of the attorney's time is spent practicing criminal law in Texas during each of the three (3) years immediately preceding application.
Texas Board of Legal Specialization
Criminal Appellate Law - An attorney who applies to become board certified in criminal appellate law is expected to understand the entire process of appeals of state and federal criminal cases, as well as applications for extraordinary relief and post-conviction writ proceedings in state and federal court. In addition to meeting the requirements, board-certified criminal appellate law specialist must pass an exam that demonstrates their substantial knowledge of significant legal concepts and corresponding skills in criminal appellate law.
Texas Board of Legal Specialization
Juvenile Law - Since 2001, the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS) has been certifying attorneys as a specialist in juvenile law. For purposes of the board certification program, the term "juvenile law" is defined to include judicial and administrative proceedings for individuals under 17 years of age that are arrested or have been detained in a criminal matter.

United States Government and Court Resources

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Transportation. It sets and enforces vehicular and equipment safety standards, conducts research on traffic safety, and leads public awareness campaigns. NHTSA also provides funding to state and local governments for traffic safety initiatives. The agency collects crash data to inform its decisions and oversees vehicle recalls addressing safety defects. Its primary mission is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce road traffic crashes.

Supreme Court of the United States

Supreme Court of the United States - The Judiciary Act of 1789, Article III of the Constitution allowed for the establishment of the Supreme Court. Additionally, the United States Supreme Court is the highest in the Nation. It has jurisdiction over all state and federal cases that involve a violation of Constitutional or Federal laws. The court has the power of judicial review and is the interpreter of the Constitution. Furthermore, the court consist of the Chief Justice of the United States and associate justices.

United States Attorney General

United States Attorney General - The Attorney General's office was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789, it is the fourth position created by Congress and is defined as a "Cabinet-level position". Congress passed the Act to Establish the Department of Justice, to create an executive department of the government with the Attorney General as its lead. Furthermore, the Attorney General represents the United States in legal matters as well as provides legal advice to the President and the heads of the executive departments. Throughout the years it has evolved into the head of the Department of Justice and the chief law enforcement of the Federal Government.

United States Courts

United States Courts - Article III of the Constitution helped create the United States Courts. Congress also created several legislative courts, such as the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, U.S. Tax Court, and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Federal courts hear cases in which the United States is an interested party, bankruptcy cases, disputes between states, maritime law, and cases involving the violation of federal or constitutional laws. Additionally, the courts help decide what happened, what should be done about the situation, if a person committed the crime, and what punishment to give to the persons.

United States Courts of Appeals

United States Courts of Appeals - The U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals is divided into multiple circuits, each court hears the appeals from the district courts, federal courts, and administrative agencies. Additionally, the decision made by the Circuit Courts of Appeals and the Federal Circuit is extremely important because they possess only appellate jurisdiction. This is essential because the Supreme Court of the United States hears thousands of cases and has many to review. The Appellate courts do not hold trials, retry cases, nor hear the testimony of the witnesses. Instead, the appellate courts review procedures and decisions that were made by trial courts to make sure that there were no errors and that the law was applied correctly.

Federal Law Enforcement Agencies

ATF - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - The ATF is a federal law enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Justice. The organization is tasked with investigating and preventing federal criminal offenses involving the illegal use, possession, and manufacturing of firearms and explosives; the illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco products; and acts of bombing, arson, and terrorism. Also, the agency regulates the sale, possession, and transportation of firearms and explosives in interstate commerce through licensing. Furthermore, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives partners with state and local law enforcement agencies to carry out tasks.

ATF - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
99 New York Avenue NE,
Washington, 20226
DEA - Drug Enforcement Administration - The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was founded in 1973. It is a U.S. federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Justice. Moreover, the agency enforces the Controlled Substances Act and is tasked with preventing illicit drug trafficking, growing, manufacturing, and distribution within the United States; and to provide support to non-enforcement programs to reduce the availability of unlawful drugs in the domestic and international market. Some of the primary responsibilities of the DEA include coordinating and cooperating with federal, state, and local law enforcement in interstate and international investigations; collaborating with the United Nations and other organizations to provide support to international drug control programs, and much more.

DEA - Drug Enforcement Administration
800 K Street, N.W,
Washington, 20001
DOJ - Department of Justice - On July 1, 1870, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was established. The department is tasked with handling all criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits in which the United States has an interest. The 1870 Act is the foundation for the DOJ's authority because the Act created the Solicitor General. Nevertheless, the Department of Justice has gone through changes over the years such as additional roles that were created, for instance, the Deputy Attorney General. The additional offices, divisions, and other various components have assisted in making the Department of Justice (DOJ) into a productive law office which continues to be an enforcer of federal laws.

DOJ - Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, 20530
FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation - Protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution is the mission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They accomplish their tasks by working with other law enforcement and agents at the state, local, and international level to protect the United States from cyber attacks, terrorism, and other criminal threats. July 26, 1908, is considered to be the official date of the FBI because it was the first mission they had received - to conduct investigations on behalf of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest,
Washington, 20530

Overview of U.S. Criminal Law

State and Federal Criminal Justice System

The modern and complex criminal justice system encompasses multiple individual systems with their own jurisdiction - for instance, city courts, county courts, state courts, federal or tribal government, and military.

Furthermore, the system is made of three key components – law enforcement (e.g., police), courts (e.g., prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, etc.), and corrections (e.g., prison).

Additionally, the United States criminal justice system consists of courts at both the federal and state levels. The federal and state courts are independent of one another, and although they follow some similar procedures, there are significant differences in the type of cases and their jurisdiction.

In each of the key components (law enforcement, courts, corrections), there are varying jurisdictions and levels, such as local, state, and federal. Nevertheless, each division follows general laws and rules.

Learn more about the criminal justice system in each of the following U.S. states:

Law Enforcements in the U.S. Criminal Justice System

The branches of the Law Enforcement system attempt to serve the public and provide/promote safety and order by enforcing the laws and regulations. Also, they investigate criminal allegations and activities.

Below are the levels of the Law Enforcement System:

Federal Law Enforcements consist of various agencies and officers. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is responsible for federal laws and this is done through various agencies such as the FBI, Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; Federal Bureau of Prisons, and other important agencies. Also, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) consists of other important agencies. For example, the TSA, Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcements, and much more. The federal branch of law enforcements handle cases that are either domestic or international threat to the United States. Local and State law enforcement agencies lack jurisdiction when a criminal commits a federal crime. Federal jurisdiction typically extends to criminal activities involving in civil rights, patents, immigration, interstate commerce, and criminal offenses across state lines.

State Law Enforcement conducts investigations that do not fall under the jurisdiction of local enforcements (e.g., County Sheriffs). There are a variety of departments and agencies, for instance, the state department of public safety. Other duties that fall under the jurisdiction of state law enforcement include protecting government officials, arresting criminal suspects, protecting the scene of a crime, provide emergency assistance, interview and interrogate individuals.

Local Law Enforcement operates in specific counties, cities, and communities. The jurisdiction size helps determine the structure of the local law enforcement agencies. For example, in bigger cities, there would be multiple police departments across neighborhoods while in small towns there might be a single officer. Moreover, the size of the local police department indicates multiple hierarchies of positions.

Courts & Legal Systems

The state courts have broad jurisdictions and they are able to hear cases related to family disputes, traffic violations, broken contract, assault, robberies, etc. In contrast, the federal court system hears cases where the United States is a legal party such as when the federal law or the Constitution is violated and cases in areas like maritime law, bankruptcy, etc.

Below are the levels of the Court and Legal Systems:

The Federal Courts are comprised of three main levels: 94 district courts, 13 circuit courts, and the United States Supreme Court.

The District Courts handle cases involving federal law violations and/or cases where the parties are from two different states. When legal parties disagree with a decision made during their trial, an appeal can be filed.

The Circuit Courts act as the first step in the federal appeal process, and their decision remains final unless the case is sent to trial again or the legal parties involved seek an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cases heard at the U.S. Supreme Court level deal with legal principles such as two federal courts having two different interpretations of the law and the interpretation of the Constitution.

State Courts have trial courts, appellate courts, and the state Supreme Courts. The trial courts include the municipal courts, country courts, and state trial courts. A state Supreme Court reviews case documents, written briefs, review files, etc. The state Supreme Court after reviewing a case decides to reverse the decision made, affirm it, or send it back to trial.

Correction Systems in the United States

The correction system’s function includes keeping the criminal population separate from the civilians, enact punishments, and promote rehabilitation. State and Federal correction systems act independently but follow similar protocols and procedures. Furthermore, the system uses incarceration, community service, probation and parole as forms of punishment and rehabilitation for offenders.

Parties in a Criminal Case

A party is a participant or a group of participants in a legal proceeding or suit who has an interest in the outcome of the case.

Below are the parties included in a criminal case:

  • Defendant:  This is the person accused of the crime. The defendant may be charged with a crime by a grand jury indictment, by information filed by a prosecutor, or another method, depending on the jurisdiction. The defendant cannot be required to testify in his or her trial, and, in most cases, his or her attorney will advise against it.
  • Defense Attorney:  The defendant has a right to counsel, who will be his or her advocate in all matters in the accusation. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney in most charges, the court will appoint one for him or her. Many jurisdictions have a public defender's office.
  • Attorney for the People:  Under the legal system, the people are the government, and, therefore, the prosecutor is representing the people. The office of the prosecutor depends on the jurisdiction making the charges. If it's a federal crime, the prosecutor is the U.S. Attorney. For charges of violating state criminal statutes, it may be the state attorney, the district attorney or the county attorney. If the charge is in municipal court, the prosecutor may be a city attorney.
  • Judge:  The judge presides over the legal proceedings. He or she is not to make decisions on the verdict unless the defendant asks for a bench trial. The judge is supposed to be impartial.
  • Jury:  The jury is to be an impartial panel of community members, who are capable of following the law and reaching a just decision. Both the prosecutor and the defense have a hand in selecting the jury in a process called "voir dire."

Absent from this list is the victim. The prosecutor does not represent the victim in criminal matters. The prosecutor represents the state (the government) in their interest to convict an individual for a criminal offense. The criminal justice system itself is designed to facilitate justice for victims. If the defendant is convicted, certain jurisdictions allow the victim to make a statement during sentencing proceedings.

The term "criminal justice attorney" applies to all of the attorneys within the criminal justice system including the attorneys that work for the prosecutor's office, the public defender's office, criminal defense attorneys in private practice, attorneys in law enforcement agencies, and probation offices.

Rights of the Accused

A central tenet of our criminal justice system is that people who are accused of crimes are presumed innocent until proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be guilty. To ensure this, the Bill of Rights to the Constitution enshrined several enumerated rights people have. Over time, the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted and further defined those rights.

Those rights continue to evolve and, in some instances, devolve as the government develops and has access to new technology that may intrude on a person's privacy. Some of the most important rights include:

  • Right Against Self-Incrimination: This is often called, more simply, the "Right to Remain Silent." It is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment. The government may not compel a person to say or do anything that essentially hands over evidence against himself or herself. This has far-reaching implications. It means, for example, that if the accused is a witness in any legal proceeding, he or she may decline to answer a question that would incriminate him or her, often called "pleading the Fifth." It also applies to when police are gathering evidence against the accused.
  • Right to a Jury of Peers: The accused has a right for the verdict against him or her to be decided by an impartial jury of people from the community where he or she is accused of committing the crime. The number of jurors may vary, but must be at least six. For federal crimes, the jury must be unanimous in its decision. Most states have also incorporated this tenet of jury trials. This right is enumerated in the Sixth Amendment.
  • Right to a Speedy, Public Trial: This Sixth Amendment enumerated right exists to ensure that the accused are not held indefinitely for alleged crimes and that they are not subjected to secret tribunals and "kangaroo courts" where their rights may be violated. This right has come under repeated attacks during the "War on Terror."
  • Right Against Double Jeopardy: This right means a defendant cannot face trial twice for the same alleged crime. The right attaches or becomes effective after the first witness is sworn in.
  • Right to an Attorney: The accused has a right to effective counsel, who may advise him or her on the consequences of all decisions when accused of a crime. "Effective counsel" is a frequently litigated issue with a definition that continually changes.

Some of these rights, namely the right against self-incrimination and the right to an attorney, must be read to people who are arrested under the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision Miranda v. Arizona. These are often called the "Miranda Rights," and reading them is sometimes called "Mirandizing the suspect."

Reasonable Doubt

The prosecution must prove every element of their case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. Beyond reasonable doubt does not mean that prosecution must disprove every scenario that could have possibly occurred. It means that the prosecutor must create sufficient certainty in the minds of the jury that the accused did what the government is accusing him or her or doing.

The burden of proof is entirely on the prosecution. The only time the defendant must prove anything is if he or she makes an affirmative defense, meaning he or she is saying he or she did the actions he or she is accused of, but there is a legal reason they should not be convicted of a crime. Affirmative defenses include self-defense, mental illness, and mental incapacity.

Prosecutors must prove every element of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, the defendant is accused of aggravated assault. In the jurisdiction he is accused in, aggravated assault is defined as knowingly, intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause serious bodily injury on another person.

The prosecutor must prove that the accused caused bodily injury, that the injury was serious, that another person suffered the injury, and that the accused did so knowingly, intentionally or recklessly. The prosecutor must prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, or the entire case fails.

Types of Criminal Offenses

States have the power to write their own criminal statutes, so laws vary from state to state. Common offenses such as DUI/DWI, burglary, or domestic violence can vary in detail from state to state. To learn more information about your state’s criminal laws, punishments, definition, and various types of offenses, read Lawyer Legions Criminal Defense Help Center or our Criminal Defense Information Center.

  • Domestic Violence: The Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) recognizes domestic violence as a national crime, therefore, all federal domestic violence crimes are felonies. Also, while a wide range of violent crimes is illegal, penalties are often especially harsh if the alleged crime happened against a member of the defendant's family. Domestic violence charges are often accompanied by a protective order or restraining order.

To find a domestic violence defense lawyer use our criminal defense attorney directory

  • Drug Crimes: A listing of substances and their schedules can be found in 21 C.F.R. § 1308.11 – 1308.15 and 21 U.S.C. § 812. The federal government and states have identified several "controlled substances," including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and prescription drugs. The possession, sale, manufacture, or trafficking of narcotics is illegal, often with harsh penalties.

To find a drug defense lawyer use our  online criminal defense attorney directory

  • DUI / DWI / Drunk Driving: A federal DUI/DWI offense has a few differences and similarities to a state DUI/DWI offense. For example, the offense takes place on federal property or property that is under federal jurisdiction, such as national parks, airports, etc. The federal laws of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drug can be found in 36 U.S.C. § 4.23. Furthermore, in every state, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The general standard for intoxication is a blood-alcohol content of .08. In all states, the law prohibits driving under the influence of drugs.

To find a DUI/DWI defense attorney use our online criminal defense attorney directory

  • Firearm and Weapons Charges: Despite the Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms, many states and the federal government have regulations surrounding guns and weapons, often with criminal penalties. These may pertain to the type of weapon possessed or sold, where the weapon is possessed, who is possessing the weapon, or who the weapon is being sold to. For example, Title 18, United States Code, Section 922 (18 U.S.C. § 922) highlights the changes made to the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 by prohibiting individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses from possessing a firearm.

Find a firearm and weapons defense lawyer on our online criminal defense attorney directory

  • Marijuana / Cannabis Defense: States have varying laws on cannabis, but it is still illegal, at least to some degree, in most states to possess, sell, grow, or traffic marijuana. Some states have legalized and regulated the possession, sale, delivery, and cultivation of pot or weed for medicinal or recreational purposes. However, even the possession of marijuana remains a federal crime.

To find a marijuana defense lawyer use our online criminal defense attorney directory

  • Probation Violations: If a person is convicted of a crime, that person is sentenced. However, they may be released from a prison sentence on probation. If the terms of that probation are allegedly violated, that person may face a separate crime.

Find a probation violation defense lawyer on our online criminal defense attorney directory

  • Sex Crimes: Sex crimes include rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, prostitution, indecent exposure, public lewdness, and more. Every state has some sort of sex offender registry. Conviction of a sex crime often carries a significant stigma.

Find a sex crime defense lawyer

  • Theft Crimes: All jurisdictions have crimes prohibiting the unconsented taking of property, or the damaging or defacing or property. The severity of the punishment usually depends on the value of the property stolen or damaged.

Find a theft crime defense lawyer

  • White Collar Crimes: White collar crimes generally involve theft by some kind of deception. They could include mail fraud, insurance fraud, credit card fraud, and worthless checks.

To Find a white-collar criminal defense lawyer use our online criminal defense attorney directory

Criminal Procedural Issues

The different procedures used in criminal cases have a huge impact on the way the case is decided including:

  • Federal Crimes: While most criminal proceedings occur in state courts, defendants accused of federal crimes appear in U.S. District Courts. Common federal crimes include drug trafficking and mail fraud.

To find a federal criminal defense lawyer use our online criminal defense attorney directory

  • Criminal Appellate Law: Certain legal decisions, often made by the judge, can be appealed in higher appellate courts. These courts do not decide guilt or innocence, but rather whether there was a mistake in interpreting the law.

To find a Criminal Appellate defense lawyer use our online criminal defense attorney directory

  • Sealing or Expunging a Criminal Record: Certain jurisdictions allow certain records, including convictions and arrest records, to be made so they are no longer public.

Find a lawyer for sealing or expunging criminal records on our online criminal defense attorney directory

  • Juvenile Justice System: Minors are usually treated differently than adults when charged with a crime. In most jurisdictions, charges against juveniles are held in a different court setting.

Find a juvenile defense lawyer on our online criminal defense attorney directory

Criminal Defense Laws in the United States

Criminal law can be complicated for many, it encompasses a blend of state and federal statutes as well as different philosophies.

Some hold that it is a moral imperative for society to punish those who have done wrong or rehabilitate the person accused of the crime. Other philosophies have a more pragmatic approach - that the purpose behind a criminal code is to protect the victim in the case or the community.

A criminal accusation touches on some of the most important civil liberties in the United States and a conviction can result in different penalties and punishments. For instance, the loss of freedom that comes with incarceration, and the indirect consequences of having a criminal record.

Lawyer Legion’s Criminal Defense Information Center provides an overview of state and federal laws, defenses, procedures, and resources. If you have specific questions about a case, investigation or prosecution contact a highly qualified attorney near you using our online criminal defense attorney directory.

Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Choosing a great criminal defense lawyer

It is wise to obtain a defense lawyer as soon as possible when accused of a crime. In fact, if a person discovers he or she is being investigated for a crime but has not been arrested, it is a smart move to immediately retain counsel. However, most people accused will not have that opportunity. If arrested, a suspect should not answer questions without a lawyer present. If a suspect asks for a lawyer, police officers must cease interrogation.

It is important to carefully select an attorney. An attorney who has earned board certification has met stringent criteria as an experienced advocate. An attorney who is a member of a criminal defense professional organization has likely attended continuing legal education seminars and has access to resources and publications that keep him or her up to date on current criminal law and procedures.

What does a criminal defense lawyer do?

Criminal defense attorneys represent people accused of a crime at all stages of a criminal investigation or prosecution. Private attorneys charge a fee for their services, and some offer free initial consultations. For people who are indigent and unable to afford to hire a private attorney, the court might appoint a public defender.

Finding the right Criminal Defense Lawyer

At Lawyer Legion, we understand the importance of finding the right criminal defense lawyer for your particular case. Our online criminal defense directory for criminal defense attorneys’ factor in criteria which Lawyer Legion deem to be important such as membership in specialty bar associations, participation in specialty certifications, an attorney’s career accomplishments, and much more. 

When choosing a criminal defense lawyer, it is important to look for a local attorney experienced in handling your particular kind of case. Use our online criminal defense directory to research different attorneys that might be right for your case.

How do I pick the right Criminal Defense Lawyer?

When selecting a criminal defense lawyer there are a few essential things everyone should keep in mind. The first part in selecting the right criminal defense attorney is determining your legal needs, part two consists of choosing a defense attorney and what traits to look for, and part three is how to get the most out of your initial consultation.

Part 1: What are your legal needs?

●      Are you facing minor or serious charges? If you are facing criminal charges, regardless of how minor it may be. It is crucial to seek legal advice from a qualified professional. Some of the criminal defense attorneys at Lawyer Legion’s Criminal Defense Directory offer free consultation which will give you the opportunity to have your case reviewed and understand your legal options.

●      Understanding how your criminal defense attorney can help you is important and knowing their specialization. Most attorneys specialized in either criminal or civil law. If your suit was brought by an individual or company it is a civil case, while criminal charges are brought by the state, local, or federal government. Additionally, some criminal defense lawyers concentrate on particular practice areas such as violent crime defenses.

●      Do you need a federal or state criminal defense attorney? Knowing whether you need a state or federal lawyer is vital. If you are facing state charges, then hiring an attorney that specializes in the laws of that specific state is beneficial. However, if you are facing federal charges it is crucial that you retain an experienced defense attorney who can dedicate the time and resources your case needs.

Part 2A: What traits to look for?

●  What qualities should you look for in a criminal defense attorney depends entirely on what is important to you. Good qualities to take into consideration when choosing the right criminal defense lawyer are:

○      Their availability

○      Their work ethics – Is the attorney staying in communication with you? How available will they be to answer your questions and concerns? How quickly can you expect the attorney to get back to you?

○      Excellent communication skills

●  Professional traits to take into consideration are:

○      His or Her experience in your type of criminal offense (e.g., drug crimes, probation violations, etc.)

○      Good record of successful cases

○      How good are their analytical skills

Part 2B: Choosing my Criminal Defense Attorney

●      Is the lawyer member of any associations or professional organizations? An attorney who is a member of a criminal defense professional organization has likely attended continuing legal education seminars and has access to resources and publications that keep him or her up to date on current criminal law and procedures.

●      When selecting an attorney use our directory of criminal defense lawyers to find an attorney near you who can guide you and adequately represent you. Lawyer Legion's online criminal defense attorney directory includes various attorneys who are ranked based on their practice areas.

●      Compile a list of three (3) or four (4) attorneys that you may want to arrange a consultation with. Some attorneys offer a free initial consultation to discuss the facts surrounding your case. Also, you want to keep a list of three (3) to four (4) lawyers to meet with because it will provide some variety and you will not feel overwhelmed.

Part 3: How to get the most out of your initial consultation

During your initial consultation, there are also other qualities you should be attentive to. The relationship between you and your lawyer is a commitment and takes time to develop. Therefore, it is important to have a solid foundation and a good partnership early. An initial consultation provides you with the opportunity to decide how confident you feel about the attorney’s experience, skills, and analysis of your case. Be sure to schedule a consultation with more than one criminal defense lawyer to make sure the attorney that is representing you is the right for you.

●      A consultation is not a binding contract. Therefore, if you have consulted with an attorney but chose not to hire him or her to represent you, there is nothing wrong with that. Making sure you find an attorney that is best for you is essential and consultation helps you learn information about your case as well as your potential criminal defense lawyer.

●      Making a good impression on your attorney is important. Working with a lawyer is a commitment and requires a good partnership. Make sure that you are prepared and take with you paperwork related to the facts of your case (e.g., documents issued by the court), have a list of questions such as:

○      What are the fees and payment plans?

○      What trial strategies do you have planned?

○      How can I help my case?

○      What past experience do you have handling my type of case?

●      Knowing who is working on your case, what their experience level is, and how much time your attorney will be dedicated to your case. Ask your attorney about his or her staff. Determining who are the members of your legal team during the initial consultation helps you find out how experienced they are, what would happen if your criminal defense attorney becomes ill and much more.

Communication during this partnership is essential. Make sure that you feel comfortable and when discussing the facts of your case the more information you provide to the criminal defense lawyer, the more accurate the attorney can provide you with legal resources based on your legal needs.

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

What does a Criminal Defense Attorney do?

Criminal defense attorneys represent people accused of a crime at all stages of a criminal investigation or prosecution. Private attorneys charge a fee for their services, and some offer free initial consultations. For people who are indigent and unable to afford to hire a private attorney, the court might appoint a public defender.

How can I obtain a federal crime defense lawyer?

Use Lawyer Legion Criminal Defense Directory. It was created to rank the top criminal defense attorneys in each state, city, and county in the United States. Our directory includes criminal defense attorneys focused on cases in state or federal court, defending cases at the trial or appellate level, and those fighting misdemeanor or more serious felony charges.

When is a crime activity a federal offense?

Federal jurisdiction typically extends to criminal activities involving civil rights, patents, immigration, interstate commerce, and criminal offenses across state lines.

How can I find the right criminal defense attorney?

When selecting a criminal defense lawyer there are a few essential things everyone should keep in mind. The first part in selecting the right criminal defense attorney is determining your legal needs, part two consists of choosing a defense attorney and what traits to look for, and part three is how to get the most out of your initial consultation.

What kind of questions should I be asking my lawyers?

When you begin your search for a criminal defense attorney, consider setting up a free initial consultation to ask the following types of questions:

  1. How long have you been practicing criminal law?
  2. What percentage of your practice is devoted to criminal defense?
  3. What past experience do you have handling my type of case?
  4. How many times have you represented someone with an accusation similar to mine?
  5. How were those cases resolved?
  6. What is the statutory maximum penalty that can be imposed if I am convicted?
  7. What about minimum mandatory penalties?
  8. What is the best possible outcome in my case?
  9. What is the worse possible outcome in my case?
  10. What defenses exist in my case?
  11. What strategy do they have in mind?
  12. What attorney fees are required?
  13. What other costs might I incur?
  14. How many cases have you taken to trial?
  15. What were the results in those cases?
  16. What can I do to help you with my defense?

How does the criminal justice system work?

The United States Criminal Justice System operates within three key components – law enforcement, courts, corrections. The law enforcement officials conduct an investigation and after the next process would be the courts and finally the correction systems depending on the outcome of the court process.

What is the criminal justice system?

The criminal justice system in the United States consists of law enforcement agencies (e.g., police), court systems (i.e., prosecutors, defense attorneys, juries, and judges), and corrections systems (e.g., prison) which spans to the federal, state, and local levels of the government. The key components of the justice system facilitate the functions of the system independently and through collaboration between divisions.

What is the difference between the State and Federal criminal justice system?

Each state has its own set of criminal laws. Prosecutors for violations of state law operate at the local and state level. Criminal investigations are conducted by local police departments, the sheriff's office in each county, or state level law enforcement agencies. 

Federal law violations are prosecuted by Assistant United State Attorneys in each of the District Courts. Criminal investigations at the federal law involve law enforcement agents with the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshal Service, etc.

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