Waking to the Risks

In what has to be one of the great oxymorons in law, "criminal defense" represents one of the most common areas of legal expertise. Unfortunately, common misconceptions abut what a criminal defense lawyer does also means that many of their clients end up selecting the wrong lawyer, and also have false conceptions of what will happen to them once the process begins. The truth is that almost half of all people could be charged with criminal acts in a single year. ranging from threat, conspiracy, and abuse charges.

Dealing With Police: For example, most people fail to distinguish the roles of attorneys when dealing with police. As the criminal process typically begins not with lawyers but with a citation or investigation by police, many people incorrectly believe that police adequately represent their interests. Many people also incorrectly believe that hiring an attorney will cause police to become more suspicions, hostile, and intractable.

Generally, however, police are less likely to act against someone who is seen as fully armed with legal knowledge. This is because (at least in my experience) most police see attorneys as not understanding police work, while undermining police authority. One thing police and criminal defense counsel do agree with is how amazing it is that criminal defendants (especially if they're guilty) talk so much. Criminal defense attorneys say their first advice is often the best: "shut up until I get there." Right to Silence: The right not to speak is a vital part of the right to representation. The police are required to Mirandize anyone they arrest.

Without this right, the very nature of what constitutes an "arrest" would become ambiguous. In a free society, the right to have one person to stand up and represent the power of the entire democracy is an incredible thing. But the intimidating nature of being detained by the state was not lost upon our founding fathers over two hundred years ago.

Adequate Representation: Unfortunately, the range of abilities represented by criminal defense lawyers is wide. A decision about what kind of lawyer can be afforded is also going to affect specific rights. For example, waiting for a public defender, because a client does not have enough for a private attorney, may mean more time in jail. Furthermore, depending on the quality of the public defender, the rate of pleading guilty is much higher when a public versus a private attorney is involved. An acquaintance of mine is just now facing the third of a recurring series of a problem he has (driving under the influence). There wasn't much I could do for him.

I knew he wasn't willing to pay for what it might take to beat the police case against him. Neither was he ready to know just how much he was going to have to pay (almost $10,000). Because the police spend a lot of time building DUI cases, they are hard to beat; this often means 'expensive' to beat, as there are very expensive experts who do nothing but beat DUI cases. Does this mean 'adequate representation' is the same as the quality of representation available to thsoe who can afford the best? Of course not. Some of the best advice I give anyone is to do more than "know" your rights, as evidenced in the popularity of dozens of television true crime dramas.

I urge people to exercise your rights. To a great measure, this means waking up to the daily reality: almost anyone can be arrested on a criminal charge. Adequate, and competent, representation has even been held to be present when a lawyer was visibly asleep during a criminal defendant's trial. The best criminal defense begins before the trial.

and before any charges. I hope we all wake up to the risks.

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