After you've been arrested on a criminal charge, the normal procedure is for you to obtain a lawyer to defend you when your case goes to trial. It's important, however, that you take an active part in your own defense, to ensure that all aspects of your case are being handled in the proper manner. With that in mind, there are three things you can ask a criminal lawyer prior to your case that can help you mount the best defense.
What Are the Chances For a Plea Bargain? -- To save time and money, the legal system has established what is known as a plea bargain, which allows you to plead guilty to a charge agreed upon by your criminal lawyer and the prosecution. This is called a 'bargain,' because you are typically allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge instead of going to trial. By taking a plea bargain, you eliminate the risk of being found guilty on your original charge, which will typically carry a higher prison term. Ask your lawyer to determine if the prosecutor is willing to negotiate a plea agreement.
Have You Obtained All the Evidence Against Me? -- Your criminal defense lawyer is entitled to review all the evidence against you that the prosecution plans to introduce during the trial. This is known as the 'discovery' phase of a trail, and it's vital that your criminal defense lawyer obtains every single piece of evidence that can be used to convict you. You must ask your lawyer to show you the evidence, whether it's photos, witness statements, audio and video recordings, or the original police report so that you can review it and determine if there are inconsistencies that can help you during the trial. Your case could be lost if a piece of evidence is presented that your lawyer failed to obtain because your lawyer may not be able to counter that evidence in an effective manner.
What Are the Sentencing Options If I'm Found Guilty? -- Many defendants forget to ask their lawyer what options exist if they are found guilty. Depending on the crime for which you're accused, the judge may offer options other than going to jail or paying a fine, but your lawyer has to be aware of these options and ask for them immediately after sentencing. For some non-violent crimes, the court may offer work diversion programs that allow you to perform community service instead of spending time in jail. Fully understanding your sentencing options may also affect whether you risk going to trial, or try to obtain a plea agreement.