By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Why do I defend people?
There are many reasons, I suppose. I’m sure much of it is due to the way I was raised or my experiences with authority figures when I was growing up. Either way, as with most people, I’m sure I’ll never fully understand exactly why I do what I do for a living.
Beyond that, though, there are several core values which I think I share with many other lawyers.
1. Good People Can be Wrong
I fear the destruction decent people can do when they are blinded by the goodness of their work. The more I see our criminal justice system in action, the more in awe I am of how the framers of the U.S. Constitution understood human nature. They knew back then that government, law enforcement, and even the masses of citizens will ALWAYS seek more power in the name of safety, security and decency. It was true back then and it’s true today. And write it down… it will be true 200 years from now.
I realize it’s very easy to sound like the village idiot when discussing over-zealous prosecution. But here’s the thing… decent people hurting others in the name of good comes in very subtle forms…
…like a rookie officer pretending to do a computer check while waiting for drug dogs to smell a teenagers car;
…a friendly reminder from the County Sheriff that you can enjoy your holiday weekend knowing officers are standing by to jam needles in the arms of the bad guys driving drunk;
…or a petty store loss prevention officer detaining and lecturing a manic depressed housewife for shoplifting for two hours before calling the police.
2. Police Don’t have the Monopoly on Justice
I get to visit with juries on a frequent basis and show them that the prosecution and the police don’t have a monopoly on truth, fairness or justice. Though I make a joke about it, we show citizens Superman and Batman don’t drink coffee with the police at Starbucks in between shifts rounding up bad guys.
We don’t live in a cartoon world where everything is black or white. Just because the legislature says the punishment for a DWI is fair — doesn’t make it so. I enjoy showing jurors the human side of the story to allow them to judge for themselves the right thing to do in each case.
3. It Makes Law Enforcement Better
You read that right.
Everyone in America gets their paper graded. Everyone. Juries and Judges with the help of criminal defense Lawyers grade the police papers’ by throwing out cases where they have over-reached, done a sloppy job, or been flat wrong. Law Enforcement officers will tell you that they can be trusted to manage their own performance, but again, the “trust-me” system of checks and balances is more for places like North Korea.
When a police officer gets caught exaggerating clues in front of a jury or has their arrest thrown out by a Judge because they took a shortcut, it honestly makes them a better officer whether they’ll admit that or not.
4. It’s a Hard Job and it Takes Courage
Being a criminal defense lawyer isn’t for everyone. You have to have the courage to stand in front of 70 complete strangers who can’t understand why the person next to you should even deserve a lawyer… or how any lawyer would even undertake to defend such a person.
Not only do you have to have the courage to confront this situation… you have to have the confidence, experience and preparation to fight — and win — trials that begin this way.
I’m not suggesting being a prosecuting attorney is easy or less honorable because it certainly is not. But it’s a lot easier to stand on the star in the middle of Cowboy’s Stadium and scream “Go Cowboys” than it is to yell, “You’ve got it all wrong!”
5. I’m a contrarian.
I just am.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any situation, you should consult an attorney directly.