What Is a Criminal Defense Attorney and When Do You Need One?

Indianapolis criminal defense attorneys

A criminal defense attorney is a lawyer who represents people and organizations facing criminal charges or under criminal investigation. They advocate for their clients by advising them on their legal rights, representing them in court, and developing defense strategies.


A criminal defense lawyer’s role is to protect their client’s constitutional rights throughout the legal process – from arrest to trial to appeal. They examine evidence, interview witnesses, negotiate with prosecutors, and argue legal motions to get charges reduced or dismissed. If a case goes to trial, they present the best defense to either achieve an acquittal or the most lenient sentence possible if convicted.

When Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Expert studies suggest that as many as 6% of people locked up in prison are innocent. That’s one in twenty convictions where someone was wrongly accused and later found guilty. A 2022 report found that Black Americans were seven times more likely to be falsely convicted of murder than white people, and the racial bias inherent in the American justice system is well documented.

Of course, not everyone accused of a crime or facing criminal charges is innocent, but in all of the situations below, you need experienced criminal defense attorneys on your side. 

1. You Are Under Arrest or Suspected of a Crime

According to Indianapolis criminal defense attorneys Ryan Nelson & Scott Adams, “If you are arrested or questioned by police as a suspect in connection with an alleged crime, we strongly recommend that you retain legal counsel immediately to protect yourself. A lawyer can intervene with the police, assert your rights, and start building a defense for you”. 

While a public defender can help you, a 2023 study found that most are dangerously overworked, with caseloads so heavy that effective legal representation was impossible. You are much better off hiring your own defense attorney, some of whom will take on cases pro bono. 

2. You Are Facing Criminal Charges

Once you are formally charged with an offense, having an experienced criminal lawyer represent you is critical. The stakes are high, and a conviction can result in hefty fines, probation, jail time, or other serious penalties that can impact your life. An attorney has the skills and knowledge to navigate your defense.

3. You Are Under Investigation

You may need legal representation even if you have not been arrested or charged with a crime yet. If you know you are being investigated as part of a criminal case, quickly contact a criminal lawyer for assistance. They can communicate with investigators on your behalf.

4. You Violated Parole or Probation Terms

If you are currently on parole, probation, or supervised release from prison and get accused of violating the terms, your freedom is on the line. A specialized criminal defense lawyer can advocate for you at your violation hearing to avoid harsh penalties. 

The bottom line is if your property, livelihood, or liberty is being threatened by criminal prosecution, engage an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect you, build the strongest case possible, and tilt the scales of justice in your favor.


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