What Do Criminal Lawyers Do?

what does a criminal lawyer do?

What Do Criminal Lawyers Do?

When someone accuses a defendant of a crime, they may need the help of a criminal lawyer. These professionals defend them in court and aim to secure the most favourable outcome, given the circumstances of the case. 

This post explains what criminal lawyers are, what they do, and how often they go to court. By the end, you should better understand how they could serve you if facing criminal charges. 


What are criminal lawyers?

Criminal lawyers are legal professionals who specialise in criminal law. Many are defence lawyers, who represent clients accused of crimes. However, some are prosecution lawyers, representing alleged victims. These lawyers do not work in other legal areas, such as tax, real estate or family law.

How do criminal lawyers work? 

Criminal defence lawyers in Australia perform tasks they believe will help their clients mount a superior defence in court. Often, they follow a strict process to minimise risk and enhance the likelihood of a positive outcome.

The first step in the relationship is to guide clients. Defendants need to know: 


  • The nature of crimes the prosecution alleges they committed 
  • The severity of these crimes and likely punishments they entail (such as time in prison or financial penalties)
  • The legal options available to them
  • How they should approach the case going forward (including what they should say, who they should speak to and where they should go, etc.)

Next, criminal lawyers will investigate the case’s circumstances to learn more about the situation and available defences. This process is a fact-finding mission; it is not to determine innocence or guilt. 

what do criminal lawyers do

For example, criminal lawyers might: 

  • Ask for police reports detailing the alleged incidents
  • Collect witness statements that support their client’s case or retelling of events
  • Request any forensic or financial evidence from the prosecution
  • Ask the client for any additional documentation they have pertinent to their case

Once criminal lawyers have this information, they can enter plea bargain negotiations or take the case to court. Attorneys may suggest the former if they believe it will result in a superior outcome for their client (for example, when the evidence against them is overwhelming). However, defence attorneys may like the latter option more in some situations. 

If the case goes to court, criminal defence lawyers will present arguments for a favourable outcome, based on the evidence available to the judge and jury. Most of these will concentrate on diminishing guilt or various grounds. 

Lawyers may also succeed in getting courts to throw out the case by pointing to procedural irregularities or alibis. In these cases, courts may exonerate defendants and let them go free. 


What cases do criminal lawyers deal with?

Criminal lawyers help their clients deal with charges against them. However, Australia’s range of criminal offences is broad, so most law offices specialise in a subset. 

Here are some common cases criminal defence lawyers assist with: 

During these cases, lawyers work within the boundaries of the law to help clients mount the strongest defence. In some situations, this will involve a comprehensive defence (such as demonstrating they were somewhere else when the alleged crime happened). At other times, it will mean appealing to the court for clemency, such as asking for a lighter sentence based on diminished responsibility. 

The case lawyers put forth will depend on legal precedent, the strength of the prosecution’s case, and any technicalities enabling a quick resolution. It is not always possible for criminal lawyers to guarantee a favourable outcome to their clients. If courts believe they have sufficient evidence to convict and issue penalties, they will. 

criminal lawyers writing documents

How often do criminal lawyers go to court?

Criminal lawyers can go to court regularly. However, a lot of their work occurs outside of the courtroom, as explained above. 

Solicitors are less likely to represent clients in court. Most prefer to work behind the scenes in offices, going through the paperwork. Barristers do most of the representation to judges and juries. However, both can appear on their behalf if out-of-court solutions are unfavourable or unavailable. 

The number of times a criminal lawyer must go to court depends on the case’s complexity. Trials requiring multiple hearings could necessitate dozens of representations by legal professionals. 

The most complex cases often involve sexual offences or criminal financial activity. These may require multiple witness statements or evidence-gathering sessions before reaching a verdict. New evidence may also come to light during proceedings, necessitating additional hearings. 

Simple cases, such as theft from a store, don’t require as much court time. Usually, witnesses can relay evidence in a single hearing, allowing attorneys to attend less frequently. 

Though case complexity plays a role, the strength of the case can also determine the number of court appearances criminal lawyers make. The stronger it is, the more likely an out-of-court plea bargain becomes (and the fewer subsequent appearances they must make). 

Lastly, criminal defence lawyers may attend court more often at their client’s request. Clients may want them there for moral support, or they may actively desire to fight the charges against them. 


Now You Know What Criminal Offence Lawyers Do

After reading this post, you should have a clearer idea of what criminal offence lawyers do. Their primary purpose is to defend their clients and seek opportunities to reduce or eliminate penalties. 

However, criminal defence lawyers can only work with the circumstances of the case – they can’t guarantee exoneration. Strong evidence can pose significant defence challenges for legal teams and their clients. 

Finding an exceptional criminal defence lawyer is essential because of the severity of criminal penalties in Australia. The Sentencing Advisory Council reports a maximum prison penalty of “life” for some offences, with penalties of up to 25 years for other criminal activities, including armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape.