One of the more difficult things to deal with as a criminal defense attorney is feeling responsible for someone’s life, liberty, and, of course, happiness.
There are all kinds of reasons why it isn’t true that a criminal defense attorney is responsible for these things, but the feeling of responsibility is often there anyway (at least for me).
Recognizing that the attorney is not responsible for it is not to say that the client is responsible for it. More innocent people than you might imagine are arrested and charged with crimes.1 Some are not, of course, innocent. Let’s face it, the police don’t get it wrong every time or, as I like to say, “even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in awhile.”
Complicating this whole mess is the combination of a system that tries hard to stop people from exercising their constitutional rights, and the “process” of plea bargaining upon which it depends.
- It is the existence of plea bargaining has raised this from “some” to “more than you might imagine.” This is perhaps fodder for another post. I think the fact that plea bargaining exists, combined with the fact that potential sentences are so high, means the police arrest more innocent people. Because they can rest assured that even innocent people will plead guilty if it means “only” losing, say, three years of their lives, rather than five, ten, twenty, or more, and for other reasons that, as I said, are fodder for another post, the police get away with shoddy investigations and snap judgments. [↩]