14th February 2019

What you need to know about Criminal Law

For many people being accused of a criminal offence is most likely an unfamiliar and highly stressful situation. Whether you’ve been accused of shoplifting or your business has been associated with fraud and other illegal wrongdoings, it can be a scary and unpredictable time for everyone involved. The support of your friends and family is essential during this time, but it’s likely they will be affected by the accusations too.

Unfortunately it isn’t just your personal life which may be affected if you’ve been charged with an offence. Your reputation could also be on the line, which may have a detrimental effect on your career and even future jobs. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to seek the support of legal professionals as soon as you’ve been charged with an offence. With comprehensive knowledge of criminal law and the justice system, criminal defence lawyers are in a position to offer you the best possible advice for your case with total honesty.

If you’ve been accused of an offence, it’s important to take action immediately. Here’s our guide to criminal law, what you need to know and what to expect from your solicitor.

What happens when you are suspected or accused of a crime?

As soon as you’ve been accused of a crime, it is imperative to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible by contacting a trusted solicitor who specialises in criminal law. When you meet with a solicitor they will be able to talk you through the entire process in terms you understand and give you all the information you need to know when proceeding with your case.

Making sure you speak to a solicitor who specialises in criminal law is essential to ensure you receive the best possible representation from someone well-versed and up to date on all relevant legislation. This is true for all circumstances, whether you are facing charges for a violent act or a road traffic accident, so make sure you do your research when choosing the right legal firm for you.

Being questioned at a police station or in your own home can be stressful and it’s not uncommon to feel frightened or anxious. In this situation try to stay calm and remember that if you are to be interviewed anywhere by a police officer, under caution, it is your legal right to have a solicitor present, who will be independent and free of charge. You can ask for either a duty solicitor (a solicitor based in police stations but independent of the police) or your own solicitor, so think carefully about how you would like to proceed.

What can a Criminal Defence Solicitor do for you?

Having been accused of a criminal offence, you’ll need the support of a solicitor to help you make the best and most informed choices throughout your case. From the initial interview all the way through to your court hearing, you can expect to receive assistance in a number of areas when you hire a criminal defence solicitor. They will be on hand throughout your case to make sure you’re kept up to date with everything and that you’re treated fairly while being held in custody.

Solicitors act independently from the police to make sure they remain as unbiased as possible but will be able to discuss the evidence held against you and how strong it may be. In addition to this they will be able to offer you specialist advice regarding your case, including the most effective way to answer all interview questions from the police and in court. In some cases a solicitor may be able to give you advice that may avoid the case ever being charged to court but if not, will work to protect your best interests and achieve a positive outcome at the hearing.

No matter what it is always advisable to seek the services of a solicitor who specialises in criminal law. They will be able to offer you honest and informed representation and will support you throughout the process, giving you the best possible chance of absolving yourself and clearing your name.

What happens if your case goes to court?

Having a solicitor to defend you in court could be the difference between being convicted and being cleared of any wrongdoing, so it’s important to have legal representation you can rely on. Depending on the crime you have been accused of the court procedures will differ and you’ll need to have a good understanding of these throughout.

For instance if you’ve been accused of a motoring offence, such as speeding, you will appear at a Magistrates’ Court without a jury present. For more serious charges such as murder and robbery you will be sent from the Magistrates’ Court to the Crown Court and will be expected to enter a ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ plea. Where you plead ‘not guilty’ your solicitor or Crown Court Advocate will prepare your defence which will ultimately be decided at trial in front of a jury. If you plead guilty or are found guilty your defence advocate will also seek to encourage the judge to reduce any sentence on the basis of mitigating circumstances.

With this in mind it is important to choose a solicitor you feel will commit themselves fully to your case. Without a professional offering considered legal advice you may receive a much longer or more serious sentence than may be the case with a dedicated solicitor working alongside you.

How to find a Criminal Defence Solicitor

Finding a criminal defence lawyer you trust is absolutely essential under every circumstance. You need to trust that they have your best interests at heart and that you can talk to them openly and honestly to find a strategy that suits your individual case. A good solicitor should remain unbiased but shouldn’t give you unrealistic expectations regarding your situation. For this reason it is important to find the right solicitor for you.

To begin the process you can search for solicitors on the Law Society’s directory – a free service which allows you to search for legal professionals in your local area. Make sure you choose a solicitor who has specialised in criminal law, to ensure you’re receiving the most accurate and up to date legal information. This applies to all aspects of law whether you’ve been charged with a criminal offence or you’re navigating a separation agreement, so it’s important to find a lawyer who is qualified to give you the advice you need.

What is Legal Aid?

For many people the cost of hiring a solicitor can be a source of stress. However it is important to remember that there are many avenues you can take to manage the cost of hiring a legal professional. One such avenue is by way of legal aid, a Government scheme that seeks to help people fund the costs of legal advice and representation in court.

To be eligible for legal aid you will need to satisfy the means test and the interests of justice test. Your solicitor will be able to apply for legal aid on your behalf so this is something you should discuss with them.

Ben Hoare Bell LLP – specialist Criminal Defence solicitors

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offence it is important to discuss your circumstances with a qualified and compassionate criminal defence lawyer you can trust. Dealing with legal proceedings can be incredibly stressful, which is why at Ben Hoare Bell LLP we offer a 24/7 service across North East England. Whether you need out of hours assistance, a duty solicitor for support at the police station or court representation, look no further than our team of expert solicitors.

The lawyers in our criminal law department are experts in criminal law and are dedicated to offering honest advice in every case. In addition to specialising in criminal law our solicitors can also provide assistance on a wide range of legal matters including separation agreements, medical negligence and personal injury.

For more information about our range of legal services and to speak to someone in confidence about your case please do not hesitate to get in touch with our qualified solicitors at Ben Hoare Bell.