Becoming a criminal lawyer in America takes a lot of time and effort. First off, you must have a minimum of two degrees before you can practice law. In addition, you have to study for at least seven years post-secondary before you become a qualified lawyer. If you want to specialize in criminal law, you may study for an additional one or two years (after the initial seven years) before you become a specialist in criminal law. Clearly, becoming a criminal lawyer is not a stroll in the park. This is probably one reason lawyers are considered learned people. Below are the steps to becoming a criminal lawyer.
Training as a Lawyer
After you get your high school diploma, you must graduate from a reputable university before you attend law school. This takes at least four years of full-time study. The next step is law school and this takes another three years of full-time study. After you graduate from law school you get your Juris Doctor (JD) degree. Now, you are a lawyer but you have not been called to the bar. You have to sit and pass the Bar Examination before you are called to the bar. After you pass this examination, you are officially a barrister and solicitor. Once you get licensed by your state, you can practice in any court in the land.
Criminal Law Specialization
If you want to specialize in criminal law, you have two options. You can take a Master’s degree in criminal law or you can join the criminal law department of a reputable law firm. If you opt for the Master’s degree, you can get your certificate after 12-18 months of full-time study. If you join a law firm, you can start at the entry level and learn the ropes from senior lawyers in the firm you have joined. Another option is to get a job in the Department of Justice (DOJ) or in the Attorney-General’s Office. In this case, you will get vital training working as a criminal prosecutor. The skills and experience you get here will prepare you to become an excellent criminal lawyer in future.
Working as a Criminal Lawyer
Working as a criminal lawyer is challenging but it is financially rewarding. As an attorney in this branch of law, you handle a variety of cases and your clients come from different backgrounds. Below are some cases you are likely to handle as a criminal lawyer.
Driving Under the Influence
It is simply amazing that many drivers in the US get to know about traffic laws “entirely by accident”. If you have a client who has been charged with DUI, the first thing you should explain to this person is that ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Responsible drivers ought to know a number of things about traffic laws. In addition, drivers should know that many states in the US take Driving Under the Influence seriously. In case your client has been charged with DUI, your job is to give the client excellent defense and get him or her off the hook. Depending on the circumstances of the case, you might go for an out-of-court settlement. You may also plead mitigating circumstances so that your client gets a lenient sentence or a suspended sentence. In cases where the prosecution cannot prove the charges against your client, you can just make a no-case submission and your client will be discharged and acquitted.
Divorce cases can get pretty complicated because they usually involve child custody battles, alimony and child support. If you have a client that wants a divorce, you should not be in a hurry to head to court. The smart move is to hold a meeting with both parties and try to reach an amicable agreement. If the two parties are unable to reach an agreement in spite of your best efforts, you should head to the court and try to get the best deal possible for your client.
Protecting Your Clients
Being a criminal lawyer is not all about defending an accused person in court. Sometimes, your client might be a victim of a miscarriage of justice. In this case, it is your duty to ensure that justice is done. Maybe you have a client that suffered false arrest and illegal detention. You have every right to sue the state and seek compensation for a client in accordance with the law.
Maybe a newspaper or magazine has published damaging information about your client. In this case, you can sue the media house for libel and defamation of character. If the case goes in favor of your client, you will get compensation from the court.
Becoming a criminal lawyer is a tall order. It takes time and top class skills to succeed in this profession. Get the right training and you can use your expertise to help your clients.