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Lady Justice

Five Questions to Stop Asking Your Defense Attorney

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There are very few absolutes in life. Remember the old adage “There’s no such thing as a stupid question”?  There are exceptions.  If you’re from New Jersey, you know precisely what I’m talking about (“What exit?”).   Having practiced criminal law for more than 23 years, there’s no question that will shock me.  What does surprise me from time to time is the consistency with which I am asked the questions listed below.  I’ll never get tired of talking about what I do, because I love practicing law.  But once in a while, can you just ask me about sports (preferably the Gators) or the weather?

1.  What if you think your client is “guilty”?  Many different types of people – including attorneys — have asked me this question and it always amazes me.  Our Constitution, which provides the rights we all share, grants to all that we are presumed innocent.  Only a jury can determine if an individual is guilty or innocent; an individual cannot.  Either the state overcomes the presumption of innocence with proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or the person remains (in the eyes of the state) not guilty.

2.  Why would a defendant remain silent and not testify at trial?  We are all guaranteed an absolute right to require the state to prove its case without being compelled to be a witness against oneself.  A defendant does not have any burden of proof and if the defendant elects not to testify or present evidence, this decision cannot be used against him or her.  Most people are not experienced with a courtroom or trial.  Imagine being required to prove your innocence based upon your ability to communicate with 6 or 12 strangers, with your very freedom hanging in the balance.

3.  Why does the state have the burden of proof?  Our Constitution requires that the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of the crime they have charged.  The state has virtually unlimited resources to marshal their witnesses, evidence and experts.  A defendant is at an extreme disadvantage compared to the resources of the state.

4.   Does it bother you if a “guilty” person “gets off”?  A defense attorney’s obligation is to hold the state to its burden.  If the state fails to meet its burden, then the presumed innocent person remains that way.  The accused bears no burden of proof.  Whether or not you find someone to be “guilty” or “innocent” is not relevant in a criminal trial.

5.  Do you want “fair and impartial” jurors?  No!  I want jurors who understand their obligation to presume my client is innocent, who understand the state alone has the burden to prove its case — without my client’s testimony — and to prove its charges beyond all reasonable doubt.  In essence, I want jurors who presume my client’s innocence until the state proves its case!

If you have questions regarding your case, please feel free to call me at 561.655.4495.

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