A large number — no doubt many people — arrested by the police are guilty. Often enough, they’re even actually guilty of the crime for which they have been arrested. No matter how much of a true believer one might be as a criminal defense attorney, this much has to be admitted.
Miami criminal defense attorney Brian Tannebaum writes about people who fear that hiring an attorney will make them look guilty. I see this, too, although by the time people call me, they’ve usually gotten past that point.
More often what I see is people who become uncomfortable after I tell them to stop talking to others. In particular, I want them to stop talking to the police. That’s when I tend to hear, “But won’t I look guilty?”
And my response to them is the same as Brian’s response to people who think they’ll look guilty just by hiring an attorney: “No. You already look guilty.”
And that’s just one of the reasons innocent people need lawyers.
If it weren’t becoming a daily event, stories like this one would be difficult to believe.
In 1895, the United States Supreme Court noted that
The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law.1
The Coffin Court, after stating this principle, pointed out that the concept is so well-established that “[i]t is stated as unquestioned in the text-books” and went on to explain that the presumption of innocence can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman law and even to the book of Deuteronomy.2
So why has the United States Department of Justice decided to officially abandon the principle?