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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why Everyone- Even The Guilty- Deserves To Be Defended

I had an interesting discussion today with a colleague of mine who practices personal injury law. Now this fella is a great attorney, and I have a lot of respect for his approach and his ethics. However, as seems to always be the case when we discuss law issues (I know -- shallow group, we lawyers), he is dumbfounded on how my firm can practice criminal law. More precisely, I was explaining a recent "win" we had on a sexual assault case. This made him angry. After all, didn't we just get a rapist to go free? That's right folks -- we won a complete dismissal of all charges on a class "A" felony count for first degree sexual assault (for those of you not privy to legal jargon, a class "A" is the worse type -- life in prison or the death penalty).

It would be easy to say we do this for the money -- for surely, defense of serious criminal matters is not a cheap proposition. It would be easier to say we do it because, "every person deserves his/her day in court -- and someone has to stand by them." I suppose both of those are true, but that is not what frustrates my colleague. You see, he understands all that. Instead, I explain we are at war, and our enemy are those individuals and institutions that would destroy the constitution.

Defense attorneys fight this every day -- and this really makes my friend hot. "Defend the constitution by getting a rapist to go free? Seriously!" I rejoin that we have more courage then a hundred PI attorneys. We stand in the face of the entire society an insist that the constitution, and the rights of the accused, will not be trampled.

How? The motto of a defense attorney is this: "Hold the State to its constitutional burden of proof." It may come as a surprise that most of the serious criminal cases I litigate -- the accused never goes on the stand. America is one of the rare countries where the accused is innocent -- that's right -- innocent until proven guilty. Unless the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that our client is guilty, our client is NOT guilty.

That is bedrock of our legal system, and it is that freedom, that judicial equity that we so vigorously defend on the battlefield, and in the trenches. No man (or woman!) shall be convicted but by a jury of his (or her!) peers. There shall be no illegal search or seizure, and a speedy trial is guaranteed to all. The right to demand redress of grievances, and to be heard as to the purpose and length of detention -- these are all constitutional rights that we as attorneys, judges, and officers of the United States are sworn to uphold. We defense attorneys make sure the "upholding" happens, even when zealous police officers, or hardened prosecutors would seek to do otherwise.

There is no huge payday in criminal law. No million dollar verdicts in favor of our clients. The vast majority of accused are often poor, and can barely afford to pay for an attorney at all (in fact, some of the best criminal defense attorneys work for legal aid societies where no money is paid by the client at all!).

My colleague hears the words, but does not understand the language. He has over 20 years of education and another 10 of legal practice. I shudder to think what others without any training believe -- but then, in the dark of the night, when the cards are down and police are banging on your door for the crime you did not commit -- or better still, the crime you did commit, who do you want representing you?

I welcome your thoughts and would be happy to share ideas. Criminal defense, and post-release reintegration into society are very serious issues that are present in all strata of society. No one is immune, and the problems in the system will, at some point, effect almost every family. Start talking!

Hanover Law, PC
Offices in Fairfax, VA and Washington, DC
888 16th St., NW Ste 800
Washington, DC 20006
2751 Prosperity Ave, Ste 580
Fairfax, VA 22031
Sean R. Hanover, Esq.
Stephen Salwierak, Esq.
1-800-579-9864 Charles Hatley, Esq.
Leigh Snyder, Esq.

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