What Is A Criminal Lawyer And What Do They Do? (Australia)

If What Is A Criminal Lawyer And What Do They Do?you’re interested in the justice system then you may wonder, what exactly is a Criminal Lawyer and what do they do?

In short, a criminal lawyer is a type of lawyer who:

  1. Provides legal assistance to people who have been accused of a crime
  2. Provides legal assistance to victims of crime.

The types of crimes they deal with vary, from drink driving and other simple traffic offences to serious charges like murder, kidnapping and fraud.

A criminal lawyer in Melbourne or Victoria might appear in virtually any level of criminal court in Victoria. These courts could include:

  •         Supreme Court of Victoria
  •         County Court of Victoria
  •         Magistrates’ Court of Victoria

Some criminal lawyers will also appear in the Children’s Court of Victoria if they assist youth who have been charged by the police.

What Does A Criminal Lawyer Do?

A criminal lawyer’s job will vary based on the unique facts of the case. In some situations, they must convince a judge or jury that someone accused of a crime is innocent. In other circumstances, they may need to get the best plea deal they can for a client who does not want to go to trial. To accomplish either of these goals, a criminal lawyer will have to do a great deal of investigation and preparation, in addition to using their knowledge of Victorian criminal law.

Examples of actions that a criminal lawyer might take include:

  •         Interviewing the client and any witnesses
  •         Performing legal research
  •         Conducting discovery, including gathering evidence and analyzing information provided by the Office of Public Prosecutions in Victoria
  •         Drafting, filing, and arguing motions and other matters before a judge
  •         Making arrangements for experts to testify in court
  •         Guiding the defendant in obtaining character references and reviewing/editing them for presentation in court
  •         Negotiating plea bargains with the Office of Public Prosecutions
  •         Prepare witnesses and the defendant to testify at trial
  •         Appear at all court appearances and hearings
  •         Take part in depositions and meetings with the prosecution
  •         Explain their client’s rights and obligations as they work through the criminal law process

Some cases rely heavily on examining facts and evidence, while others are more centred on legal principles, interpretations, and precedents. A good criminal lawyer will focus on both aspects of every case to get the best result possible for their client.

What Types Of Crimes Does A Criminal Lawyer Handle?

A criminal lawyer can address a wide variety of crimes. Some lawyers choose to specialize in minor crimes while others focus more on very serious charges. Examples of some crimes that a criminal lawyer might handle include:

  •         Traffic law (including infractions)
  •         Domestic violence
  •         Assault
  •         Drug offences
  •         Weapons charges
  •         Sex crimes
  •         Theft and burglary
  •         Fraud and dishonesty charges
  •         Aggravated charges

Criminal lawyers also sometimes help with appeals. If a defendant has lost their case in a lower court, appealing to the County Court or Supreme Court can sometimes provide an overturned verdict or a dismissal of charges.

Skills A Successful Criminal Lawyer Will Have


Those accused of a crime rely a great deal on their criminal lawyer to help them through the legal process. Criminal lawyers must explain what is happening to their clients and break down their rights and obligations throughout the entire criminal process.

The communication level between a lawyer and the person who has been charged is critical. The defendant can only make knowledgeable, informed decisions if they understand what is happening and why. They also need an explanation of their options when making decisions, and the consequences for each option should be clearly explained.

Communication skills are vital for any criminal defense attorney. They need to take complex legal concepts and present them in a way that allows the defendant to understand. That might mean providing examples, showing them evidence, or even reviewing the Victoria criminal code with a defendant.

Knowledge of Criminal Law

Knowledge of the legal system and criminal laws is also extremely important for any criminal lawyer. They must understand each requirement for whatever crime is being alleged. The government will have to prove each element, and it is the criminal lawyer’s job to present a defense that sets out why the government cannot prove each element or provide a legal defense.

Research Abilities

Some situations will require research of the applicable law. Perhaps a defendant is facing a unique fact pattern that has not been reviewed before. In that type of situation, the criminal defense lawyer will need to look for cases that are similar to determine how the court decided those issues. They might also need to show to the court why a particular result should not occur because this case is different compared to another case that was decided previously.

Problem Solving and Creativity

Plea negotiations and presenting a legal defense will also sometimes require some problem-solving skills and creative thinking. In fact, some of the most effective criminal defense attorneys are able to think “outside of the box” to create a viable defense or a plea bargain that is workable for their clients.


A criminal lawyer can be a very helpful resource for anyone who has been accused of a crime. This person has extensive experience and knowledge regarding the legal system and criminal laws. They will prepare a case for trial by interviewing witnesses and examining evidence.

Many criminal lawyers are good communicators who can problem-solve and research the applicable law. They will provide advice and allow you to thoroughly examine and think through all of your options before making a decision. Having a criminal defence lawyer on your side can be very helpful to successfully defend a case or reach an agreeable plea deal.

Resources and Further Reading

  1. https://au.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/what-does-a-criminal-lawyer-do
  2. https://courts.vic.gov.au/court-system/victorian-courts-and-tribunals
  3. https://m.vic.gov.au/contactsandservices/directory/?ea0_lfz149_120.&organizationalUnit&198a6a6d-e9df-43cf-a4c3-a748c0cb40e9
  4. https://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/in-force/acts/crimes-act-1958/302
June Duncan

June Duncan

June has been writing about legal matters for law firms for over a decade. She is a licensed lawyer and currently practices law full-time. She writes in her spare time because she enjoys helping others decode the complexities of legal jargon so they can understand and assert their legal rights.

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