The role of a criminal attorney is a unique one, particularly as a defense attorney. Many assume the job of the defense lawyer advocate is to get someone charged with a crime declared not guilty in a trial or, even better, removed from the process altogether. While these things do occur through a jury decision, a plea bargaining or, even better, a dismissal, they are not the primary role of the defense attorney; they are the products of what occurs when criminal defense does its job.
The Basis of Criminal Defense
The Constitution of the United States provides very specific rights for everyone who is charged with a crime. These rights are in place to ensure that the government does not abuse its powers. It is very easy to overwhelm an individual, and the power of governing has proven itself to be corrupt at times, especially when politics are involved. As a result, the Constitutional rights provided for the people are specifically intended to make sure the government doesn't just run rough shod all over its citizens. Over the past fifty plus years, the Supreme Court of the United States has heard numerous cases on the issues of constitutional protections afforded to citizens accused of committing crimes. The most recent and impactful decisions begin with Miranda v. Arizona (1966) and Gideon v. Wainright (1963) through the more recent decisions of Arizona v. Gant (2009) and Rodriguez v. United States (April 21, 2015), and deal with everything from the right to remain silent, the right to court appointed counsel in non-capital cases and the rights of citizens concerning different types of searches conducted by the Government. The defense lawyer's primary legal mission is to ensure that his client's rights weren't violated by the police.
Today, a person has (among many others not listed) the right to remain silent upon arrest, to be informed of the charges, to be represented by an attorney and to be given a speedy trial versus months or years languishing in jail. Additionally, the State must follow procedures and protocols to ensure the evidence obtain was done in a lawful manner. Failure to follow these contitutional guidelines could result in a finding that a citizen's constitutional rights were violated and result in the exclusion of evidence collected, which could result in a dismissal of the charges. Ensuring that the law was followed and a client's rights weren't violated is significantly different skillset and legal procedure from gaining an acquittal following trial.
Many argue a defense lawyer simply takes advantage of "technicalities"; however, the ultimate role of the defense attorney is to ensure that the government doesn't violate any citizen's constitutional rights. A police officer or agent of the government that runs roughshod over Average Joe Citizen's constitutional rights is just as likely to trample your rights, perhaps setting you up for bogus criminal charges. I firmly believe that my ultimate job is to defend the Constitution of the United States and my clients' rights.
Most people assume that criminal defense attorneys are fast talkers and good at working "technicalities" to get guilty people released. This misperception is due to the media, as well as frustrated law enforcement officials, trying to grandstand in front of the public in order to make a case against a defendant when they've lost the case due to a “technicality” such as a violation of the defendant's constitutional rights. No one likes to admit that he or she made a mistake, and if a defense attorney wins due to a constitutional violation, it definitely means that a mistake was made. By zealously advocating for people accused of a crime, I'm ensuring that everyone's rights are protected. Hopefully, this results in the police applying constitutionally proper methods when they investigate and charge a person with a crime.
If you're the person being accused of a crime, you will want a defense attorney to protect your constitutional rights. It is the criminal defense attorney's fundamental role in the justice system. And it is my sworn duty.