I get asked at least three times a week some variation of “Are you proud of what you do?” A lot of people I know can’t believe that I want to spend my time, training and experience, defending people accused of committing crimes. To answer the question: Yes, I am proud of what I do, and I am not afraid to say so.
Inevitably, the question that follows is “How can you defend them?”
“Who is them?” I ask.
“The bad people,” they say.
Apparently I know a lot of perfect people. I know a lot of people who have never done anything they regret. It seems like I know a lot of people who have never done anything stupid. I must know a lot of people who have never been accused of doing something they didn’t actually do, or never had someone exaggerate something they did do into something they didn’t.
My people, including my friends, relatives, and colleagues, also seem to think that criminal defense attorneys only represent rapists and murderers. Wrong. I have represented teachers, engineers, garbage men, realtors, electricians, students and business owners. I have also defended rapists and murderers. It makes no difference to me, which really confuses people. When I first started my practice, I was in the same boat, thinking that the charge would influence my feelings toward the person or the case. Turns out, I just look at the evidence and move forward with my case.
I think there is a common misconception that criminal defense attorneys support illegal, evil, horrible acts. I can understand that untrue mindset. Sometimes I ask a judge or jury to set a guilty person free. I don’t do that because I want anarchy. Instead, I believe whole heartedly in the American criminal justice system. I believe that everyone needs a smart, educated, motivated lawyer by their side, fighting for them. The system requires defending all people.
Interestingly, the criminal justice system hasn’t changed all that much since the country began. The prosecution has always been required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the crime. The accused have the right to cross examine the witnesses, to testify only if they wish, and to stand for a trial by jury. In addition, we all enjoy the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and cruel and unusual punishment. I suspect the people who ask how I defend the bad people want all the protections provided by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, for themself and their families.
There is much more than “the system” that I am proud of. I like standing next to the underdog. And make no mistake the defendant is the underdog. Criminal accused don’t just appear in court. They are there because trained professional police officers think they committed a crime. Defendants lose more often than they win. There is a certain simplicity to being a criminal defense lawyer. It’s kind of like defending your younger brother: They aren’t always right, but they are always your brother.
In the end, I do what I do because I like being the only person who is there in the time of crisis. I like being the one telling the government to back off. I like being the last line of defense for another individual.
Call today and speak with me, an experienced Rochester criminal lawyer about your case.