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How Can You Represent Criminals?

How Can You Represent Them?

/ Common Questions

The questions come in many different forms and from many different people. How? Why? What if? But each question relates to one subject matter: me representing individuals accused of committing crimes, whether it be a DUI, a drug offense, an assault, or any other offense under the sun. So, there are some answers to popular questions I receive regarding my work as a criminal defense attorney.

How can I represent someone who did [insert crime here]?

*Allegedly did [insert crime here], I presume you mean. There are a lot of reasons why I practice criminal law. I represent those charged with crimes because some of them are innocent and need an advocate to assist them in showing their innocence. I know sometimes it is hard to believe, but innocent people do get charged with crimes. The justice system is not perfect and people need help. I genuinely want to help these people. I also represent some who are culpable, to an extent, but may not be guilty of the crime of which they are being charged. Those individuals deserve justice as well. Finally, there are those who are, for lack of a better term, guilty. I am a criminal defense attorney because they need help, and I want to help them.

Ask yourself these questions: Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever done anything that was illegal but you didn’t get in trouble? How about your loved ones? Now imagine, your son or daughter, or your spouse, or even yourself getting arrested for let’s say DUI. They are now facing a possible license suspension and they need their license for work. If their license gets suspended, or if they get convicted of DUI, their boss has told them they will be fired. Now they are facing a state or city prosecutor’s office that has handled thousands or tens of thousands of DUIs and has unlimited resources. Wouldn’t you want someone on their or your side who knows the legal system to be their or your advocate?

I’m not trying to paint myself as a saint. I’m far from it. But honestly, you don’t think you could ever get in trouble, or something bad could happen until it does. I practice criminal defense for good people when the thing that could never happen, does.

What if you know the person is guilty, how can you do it then?

Great question. I have represented people that have told me of their guilt at the beginning of my representation, or at some point during the case. The answer to this question is two fold. First, even if someone is guilty, that doesn’t mean they are a bad person. I genuinely believe that. Quite honestly, I like my clients. Most of them are genuinely good, hard-working people who made one mistake. And unfortunately, when the chips are down, sometimes they are left without someone in their corner. I represent the innocent and the guilty alike because I want to make sure someone is in their corner for them and is doing their best to protect their interests. I want to make sure they get a fair shake. A lot of times people do things because of an addiction or a mental health issue. They need someone to assist them in getting the help they need and not let their mistake define them for the rest of their life.

Second, attorneys are bound by our Rules of Professional Conduct. These rules require me to do a number of things. They require me to zealously advocate for my clients. They require to me keep my clients’ information, and what my clients tell me, confidential. That is how I am, under our law and our rules, able to represent guilty individuals. However, this is not without its limitations. For instance, I cannot let my client, or a witness, provide information or testimony to the court that I know is false. I also cannot knowingly present false information or evidence to the court. I am not required to tell the court that my client is guilty, but I cannot, nor can I let my client, lie.

So your job is to basically bash cops, right?

Wrong. I’m not some anti-government, anti-police nut. But, it is my job to make sure that law enforcement and the government acted lawfully in their dealings with my clients as well. I have a great deal of respect for the large, large majority of law enforcement I deal with on a daily basis. They are good people, but they are not perfect either. They are human and make mistakes. I practice criminal defense to make sure the playing field is level, to make sure my client wasn’t coerced into doing or saying something. Part of law enforcement’s job is to invade your privacy. To stop your vehicle, to ask intrusive and personal questions, to search your home, your vehicle, and you. They get paid to do that. My job is to make sure they had a justifiable reason to invade your privacy. And quite frankly, much like my respect for them, they understand the job of a criminal defense attorney, and they respect that.

I love Law and Order. Is that what your job is like?

I wish I could get done with a case in sixty minutes. Unfortunately, my day to day work is not as exciting as Ice T and the crew makes it out to be. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But the truth is that cases take months and sometimes even over a year to reach a resolution, whether it be a trial or a plea agreement. You guys get to see the fun parts on TV, and luckily not the part that includes watching the four-hour surveillance video spent looking for a needle in a haystack.

I am the criminal defense attorney at SW&L Attorneys. If you have a criminal issue, please do not hesitate to call me at 701-297-2890, or email me at luke.heck@swlattorneys.com.