I have been a criminal defence lawyer for over 30 years. The reality is that most of my clients were/are probably guilty. This fact has never prevented me from representing my clients, and providing them with the best possible defence.
Even if the client is guilty (it is impossible for me to know this, as I was not there at the relevant time), he (or she) is entitled to the best possible defence. All accused persons are presumed innocent and remain so unless and until they are proven guilty. It is the requirement of the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To be most effective, it is important that I not judge my clients. In this way, I can objectively scrutinize the evidence for and against them.
Do I Have to Believe That You Are Innocent?
My job as a criminal defence lawyer is to argue that the crown has not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt, regardless of whether the client is actually innocent or guilty.
The essence of my job is to represent my client to the best of my ability and skill. To do that, I have to assess the evidence against the client versus what my client tells me happened in his or her case. I am not the judge or jury: I am the advocate for the client. The judge or jury decides my client’s guilt or innocence. It is for me to present the best possible defence on behalf of my client.
I must advise my clients on whether to plead guilty or not guilty only on the basis of my understanding of the case against him or her. I must also weigh the possible outcome if the matter proceeds to trial versus seeking a withdrawal of the charges or some other plea bargain.
I will not judge you. I am on your side.
When the police charge a client with a criminal offence they must have reasonable and probable grounds to believe the offence charged has been committed. This is a far cry from a belief in guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Issues such as identification, knowledge, intent, defences (intoxication, not criminally responsible, self-defence, accident, etc.), sufficiency of circumstantial evidence, to name a few, come up in many of my cases. It is my job to know the weaknesses and strengths in the prosecution’s case versus the weaknesses and strengths in the case for the defence, and put this all together so as to inform the client on the best possible course of action. Guilt or innocence is not relevant to this determination. The most important skill I have is the ability to assess the case, and provide the client with useful advice that allows him or her to decide whether to go to trial or not.
In the real world, we have to make decisions every day; some are run-of-the-mill, and some are potentially life changing. To make the best decision, we must be aware of all the facts for consideration.
In the criminal law context, you don’t want my personal beliefs of your guilt or innocence to interfere with my assessment of your case. It’s the facts of the case that I have to look at.
I am frequently asked the following question at cocktail parties, and elsewhere: How can you defend someone you know is guilty? Although I believe I have answered that question herein, I will simply say:
It is my job to defend my client to the best of my ability, using all of the skills that I have developed over the last 31 years. It is irrelevant whether I believe the client is guilty or not guilty. It is for the judge or jury to decide innocence or guilt.
The criminal defence lawyer is the only one on the accused person’s side in a court of law. The prosecution and police have exceedingly more resources available to them than one man and his lawyer. However, a fearless, experienced, smart, and hardworking defence lawyer is necessary to protect the right of an accused person to a fair trial. To be most effective, the lawyer has to objectively analyze the evidence both for and against his client, without imposing his views on the client’s guilt or innocence. In this way, the criminal defence lawyer can stand up to the power of the state to ensure his client is treated fairly.
Whether you are innocent or guilty, feel free to call, text or email me to discuss your case. I will not judge you. I am on your side, and I will fearlessly fight for your right to the best possible result in your case.