When I tell people that I am a criminal defense lawyer, I am often asked "How can you defend someone you know is guilty." The question actually has different meanings to different people. To some, it often assumes that the "guilty" person should simply "take what's coming". To others it is morally wrong on my part to assist someone that is charged with a crime. Routinely, their feelings dramatically change when one of their friends or family member is charged with a crime especially if that person is facing incriminating evidence, the need to post bail, and find a lawyer. Their question changes to How can you help us?"
I will not bore you with what I tell people the first two type of questions. A person accused of a crime is faced with many dilemmas. They discuss their problem with non lawyers, and often receive bad advice from those they trust the most.
Most everyone wants to cleanse themselves of the incident by telling someone about the facts. They immediately want to know if there are going to be found guilty. Sometimes the answer is obvious. Often it is not. Whatever the facts of any particular case, my job is to provide the best defense I can. I am responsible for the identification of possible defenses, and defense strategies. I must discover, organize and prepare the evidence, and research the applicable law. This not only includes the law describing the crime alleged, but also, and often more important, the law as it relates to the evidence the prosecution will be able to use against us, and the law that may prevent us from using important evidence.
The complex and confusing series of sentencing rules and laws are also important to understand in order to fairly evaluate the prosecutor's plea offer. What is the "exposure"? If we go to trial how likely is it that we will win and if we lose, what's the worst case scenario? What are the mitigating and aggravating factors that might be considered if we lose. Do we request a Pre Sentence Investigation, entering a plea of guilty and leaving the punishment up to the judge.
If someone seeking a lawyer speaks to two or three lawyers, he will probably hear fees quoted that differ dramatically. Often the "best price" buys little more than "holding the defendant's hand" while they plead guilty. I have also seen very high paid lawyers do what appeared to be second rate work or failing to inform the client of all their options.
In some instance, I know early on that a trial is not the best course. Just because I know the prosecutor will be able to prove that a crime has been committed, and that my client did it, does not mean that something can not be done. Even when you know a trial is not likely, it is still important to prepare as though there will be a trial. Preparation is necessary in every case.".
The Martinez Law Firm