A client meeting with a criminal law attorney will often want to know what will determine the outcome of their case. No lawyer can be sure what the determining factors will be, but there are several that are common.
Especially in criminal law, there are often questions about whether the police or prosecutor followed specific legal procedures. If the police searched a vehicle for drugs without a warrant, for example, how did they establish probable cause to justify the search? While one procedural issue isn't guaranteed to torpedo a case, several can add up to kill a prosecution.
This is why cops and prosecutors are supposed to nail down the details of cases before they move ahead. It's normal for a criminal law attorney to raise procedural issues during the initial hearings. The hope is that the judge will see the problem with the situation and dismiss the charges. Even if that doesn't work, it might still set up an appeal.
Criminal law requires the state to prove its case beyond a shadow of a doubt. A big part of proving a case usually boils down to the evidence. The prosecution has to show that the defendant did certain things and at particular times. Generally, they try to build the case up with several layers of evidence to guard against the possibility that some might be throw out.
Your criminal law attorney will review the evidence. They have the right to raise concerns about the evidence during pre-trial hearings. It can significantly affect the willingness of the prosecution to continue if a key piece of evidence doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
It's common for prosecutors to negotiate with defendants for a guilty plea on a lighter charge. They don't legally have to do this, but a plea bargain may save the state resources and allow them to collect a win. Your lawyer must inform you whenever a prosecutor offers a plea deal, although the choice is yours whether to take it.
Generally, prosecutors and judges are more willing to go light on people who haven't committed previous criminal offenses. Someone with a history of convictions may face more headwinds in negotiations, and they'll also likely do more time if convicted.
Allegations involving additional factors tend to lead to harder prosecutions. The involvement of a gun in a drug crime, for example, is often an aggravating circumstance. When possible, a criminal law attorney will try to get aggravated charges reduced or eliminated during the pre-trial process.