Duties of a Defense Attorney

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Defense attorneys are a vital component of the legal system. These lawyers work to defend their clients against criminal charges, often resulting in reduced sentences or even a dismissal of the case altogether. They are also tasked with ensuring that a fair and impartial process is carried out in all cases. Whether privately retained, assigned by the court, acting pro bono or serving indigent defendants through a public defender’s office, these attorneys are dedicated to protecting their client’s rights and freedom.

In the performance of these duties, defense counsel must keep informed about developments in criminal law and procedure and be willing to discuss them with the client. In the course of this discussion, the Cain and Herren attorney must inform the client of the legal rights and options that are available to him or her, and promptly plan and take appropriate action on the client’s behalf within the bounds of the law and applicable ethical standards.

The attorney must protect the client’s confidences, and should explain to the client that a lawyer’s duty of confidentiality extends even after the matter has been resolved or the client dies. The attorney must not reveal protected confidential information unless the client consents or such disclosure is required by law or court order. The attorney must not make extrajudicial statements about the client, the prosecution or any other person. Such statements may harm the client’s reputation and may result in criminal liability.

When confronted with specialized factual or legal issues that are unfamiliar, defense counsel should seek advice from colleagues or other experienced counsel by employing safeguards to ensure confidentiality and avoid conflicts of interest. The attorney should also be prepared to withdraw from a matter if the circumstances make such withdrawal necessary.

It is the duty of defense counsel to be punctual in attendance at court, in the submission of motions and other papers, and in all dealings with court staff, witnesses and opposing counsel. The attorney should be respectful, even if he or she disagrees with others involved in the proceedings, and should not be rude or insulting to judges, jurors, other lawyers or staff members.

If a conflict of interests is present, defense counsel should disclose it to the client and, where possible, obtain the client’s informed consent to proceed with representation notwithstanding the potential for prejudice. Such conflicts typically involve a former prosecutor or an individual who may be a witness against the client.

A defense attorney should not carry a workload that is excessive in size or complexity, interferes with the provision of quality representation, endangers the client’s interest in independent, thorough, and speedy representation, or has a significant potential to breach professional obligations. In such circumstances, the attorney should make reasonable efforts to arrange alternative representation or notify supervisors in charge of the defense team. If such notification is not possible or is insufficient to protect the client’s interests, the attorney should offer to return any unearned fee.


Cain & Herren, ALC

2141 W Vineyard St, Wailuku,

HI 96793, United States

+1 808-242-9350