A longer, more descriptive term would be a “criminal defense lawyer.”
In criminal law there are two different kinds of lawyers. Those that prosecute people who are being accused of committing some violation or offense and those that defend people who are being accused or have been accused of a crime or offense.
The prosecutor works for the government and will argue that you have violated a particular portion of the Penal Code and that violation should result in some kind of punishment. The defense attorney can be either hired privately or in the event you cannot afford to hire an attorney, the court may appoint an attorney to defend you. Choosing your own criminal defense attorney is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. You want to chose someone that is not only knowledgeable and hard working, but someone you feel comfortable with helping assist you during this very stressful time in your life. When the Court appoints an attorney to represent you, you lose this ability to chose the lawyer you are most comfortable with. The defense attorneys job is to protect your constitutional rights and make sure your are treated lawfully and fairly. You want an attorney you are sure is on your side.
In Tarrant County, where I practice the majority of the time, all criminal defense attorneys are private attorneys but some agree to also represent those that cannot afford to hire an attorney and get paid for their services through the government. If you have been accused or investigated for a crime and are looking to hire a criminal defense attorney, the single biggest advantage to hiring an attorney on your own is that you get to choose who you hire.
If you were to hire me as your attorney, I will work passionately to defend you against the allegations brought by the government. I take seriously the career I have chosen and realize I’m dealing with a very personal matter that can have lasting effects on your future.
I also know that it can be incredibly frustrating to try to navigate a legal system and get answers without being about to actually speak with someone that has your best interest at heart. That is why, for my clients, I provide my cell phone number and tell them they can call me with questions and concerns. Now clearly, this can’t be abused or my wife will kill me, but most people are very respectful and I am able to answer whatever question or issue is bothering them in a timely manner.