When Good People Do Bad (Stupid) Things!!!!
Ask any criminal defense attorney what is the most common question they are asked by family and friends and I guarantee they will all say the same thing: “How can you represent someone you know is guilty?” My standard answer is a simple one, “Fortunately in this country everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a defense and is presumed innocent until proven guilty.” Here at CMG, my partners and I have represented a few truly bad people, people who committed heinous acts without reason or remorse. However, in the vast majority of situations that is simply not the case.
The truth is that most of our clients at CMG are not “bad” people or career criminals who pose a threat to the citizens around them. In fact, many of my clients are hardworking people who have done one “bad” (stupid) thing. The criminal justice system is full of these situations. For example, Nassau County is probably the toughest county in New York State (and arguably the nation) when it comes to prosecuting Driving While Intoxicated offenses. My partners and I have represented thousands of people arrested and charged with DWI’s. These clients don’t fit the traditional image of Public Enemy Number One; instead they are teachers and students; nurses and doctors; cops and firemen; plumbers and general contractors; moms and dads; and pretty much every other honest profession and position you can think of. They may have made a bad choice, an error in judgment at a particular time and place. And, of course, being charged with something other than DWI also doesn’t automatically place you in the category of hardened criminal. For whatever the reason, and there may be many, good people sometimes do things that drag them into the criminal justice system.
It is for this reason that I am happy to represent even the people who may fully concede their guilt to the charges. The issue of guilt or innocence isn’t the end of the story in a criminal case. In many cases, it’s just the beginning. The vast majority of cases in the criminal court houses of America are not resolved with trials. Clients who face and admit to overwhelming evidence of guilt need aggressive defense just as much as people who are falsely accused. Our criminal justice system, while set up to “protect the rights of the accused,” is a maze of obstacles and pitfalls. The system has evolved into a highly complicated mechanism that takes into account and deems relevant so much more than simply the ultimate “guilt or innocence” of the accused. Knowing how to navigate these waters is key, perhaps most for the clients who committed an act that was a true aberration of character. A good criminal defense attorney will differentiate this type of client from some of the other “bad” ones. A great criminal lawyer not only knows how to litigate, but how to mitigate.
Judges and prosecutors at the outset will often routinely treat each type of offense in a similar manner. A DWI is a DWI and a grand larceny is a grand larceny. However, when the defense attorney takes the time to present the prosecutor and/or the judge with specific and persuasive information, not necessarily about the client’s guilt or innocence, but about the client’s character and lifestyle, in my experience prosecutors and judges will listen closely. When done correctly, this can be to the great benefit of the client. It is more than just humanizing the accused, it is also showing that this person is a positive member of society who, with the exception of one bad mistake, has and will continue to positively contribute to society. A good criminal defense attorney can do this effectively without admitting to a client’s guilt or jeopardizing certain defenses if, later on, the case must be litigated.
There is so much more to “representing a guilty person” than what meets the eye. The criminal justice system is not simply about guilt or innocence; thankfully, there is room in between to advocate for good people who do bad (stupid) things. A good criminal defense attorney knows where the mitigation exists and points the decision makers in that direction.