Do Defense Attorneys Protect the Guilty or All of Us?

Inspired by a recent post on the Huffington Post Crime Blog, we were left wondering whether or not society, especially the politically conservative among us, believes criminal defense attorneys protect us all.

As pointed out in the post, defense attorneys do not advocate for crime. We live in the same community. We believe in law and order. We defend people. We hold the government to its burden. We ensure that government officials do not overstep their bounds and limitations; for a government unchecked becomes oppressive and miserable for its citizenry.

This is not to say that only criminal defense attorney serve to hold the government within its bounds. Voters serve a similar purpose. By their vote, the citizens can tell their officials what actions are acceptable. This is why, as the author points out in his post voters can actually be part of the problem: Individuals tend to vote in accordance with the role they usually fill or most fear they are likely to fill. Most people fill the role of law-abiding citizen and tend to vote for law-and-order candidates.

“When the Nixon administration was first elected, they were focused very much on law and order, never imagining that they would eventually be on the other end of that stick. By the time they were leaving office, they were probably more concerned about prison reform. You never know when you may depend desperately on those rights.”

Because of this problem, it is the criminal defense attorney (and by extension the citizens [jurors] they speak to) hold individual police actions and prosecutorial actions to task. It is in our role as defense attorneys that we have the power and inclination to argue for the protections afforded to us all by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

All citizens depend upon the Constitution and Bill of Rights to protect us. We want to carry arms. We want to speak freely. We want to separate church and state so that we may freely exercise our own religious beliefs. But how often is the average citizen in a position to defend his or her rights?

Because defense lawyers defend the rights of the very worst of us, they protect those same rights for all of us. It’s not always a popular position, or a popular profession, but it is a noble one when we get to preserve the rights of all.

Related Reasonable Doubt Clip: Who are last true defenders of liberty?

About JoAnne Musick

JoAnne Musick is a criminal, juvenile and family lawyer and is board certified in both criminal and juvenile law. She is a two-time past president of HCCLA (the only president to serve two terms) and is active in many legal organizations including TCDLA. JoAnne is also a regular contributor at Fault Lines, HCCLA, and her own blog. Catch up with her on social media @joannemusick.