Innocent Until Proven Guilty: How Criminal Defense Works Ethically

Criminal defense attorneys are vital in order for the legal system of the United States to work effectively.  Many people ask how an attorney can ethically defend someone who is being charged with a crime.  It is possible to do this, and takes a special person who is well educated in criminal defense to do it effectively and ethically.

Who Determines Guilt?

Every citizen of the United States has likely heard the term "innocent until proven guilty."  This is also known as the presumption of innocence.  The presumption of innocence means that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of a crime.  The decider of guilt is not the attorney who represents a client.  It is not the police officer who arrested the client.  A criminal trial allows the judge and the citizens (the jury) to determine guilt of the accused through a fair trial.  In the eyes of the United States legal system, it is worse to convict an innocent person of a crime than it is to possibly let a guilty person walk free.

Advocate for the Accused

Every citizen has the right to a fair trial.  This includes a citizen who is accused of a crime. A defense attorney acts as the voice and advocate of their client.  Everything the attorney does and says in trial is on the behalf of the client, with their best interest in mind.  The process of a fair trial still needs to be followed, especially in criminal cases.

If a criminal defense attorney is uncomfortable to the point they don't feel they can fulfill their job duties, they can step away from the case. 

The Fine Line

A criminal defense attorney walks a fine ethical line every day.  They may know a client committed a crime, but this does not prevent them from ethically defending them.

It is very important that the attorney does not lie.  A good defense attorney is honest, and never produces false evidence.  Instead, the attorney works to disprove the prosecution's case.  They tend to focus on the evidence the prosecution presents and legal issues that may come up during investigation.  The defense attorney makes sure that the full context of the case is seen.  All factors surrounding the crime should be examined. 

Admission of Guilt

Even if a client admits guilt, the case is not open and shut. There are many different reasons why an admission of guilt may be made by someone who is not necessarily guilty. They might be trying to cover for another person.  Their mental state may be impaired, or they might feel coerced or frightened at the time of admission.  A client may also be guilty of a crime, but not guilty of the crime they are charged with. 

In the End

Even if the prosecution wins, the defense attorney's job is not done.  Since they are the advocate of their client, they also make sure that the punishment is not excessive for the crime. 

Criminal defense attorneys are important for the legal system in the United States to work correctly.  The majority of criminal defense attorneys are honest and ethical people who are working to ensure that the legal process is followed and all citizens are treated equally in the eyes of the law. For more information, visit