Criminal lawyers

Do Criminal Lawyers Have to Believe Their Client Is Innocent?

Criminal lawyersIf you are in a position to need the services of a criminal defense attorney for the first time you likely feel as though you are in uncharted waters. After all, being accused of a criminal offense and knowing that your future and your freedom are at stake is a frightening experience. Add to that the need to hire an attorney to defend you, knowing you are placing your trust in that individual, and it is not surprising that you are feeling uncertain and confused. You likely have a number of questions about the criminal justice system as well as about criminal lawyers as well. One question people in your position often have is “Do criminal lawyers have to believe their client is innocent?” The best way to answer that particular question is by explaining some basics about the duties and responsibilities of criminal lawyers.

The #1 Misconception about Criminal Defense Attorneys

Let’s start with addressing the number one most common misconception about the job of a criminal defense attorney. People are frequently under the mistaken belief that the job of a criminal defense attorney is to prove a client innocent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The American criminal justice system is based on the principal that an accused is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The State has the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To do that, the prosecuting attorney must be able to prove each and every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the State fails in its burden the accused must go free. In practical terms, what this means is that a defendant is not required to prove, or disprove, anything. Therefore, it is not the job of a criminal defense attorney to prove a client innocent.

What Is a Criminal Defense Attorney’s Job?

Not that we are clear on what a criminal defense attorney’s job is not, let’s discuss what a criminal defense attorney’s job is. The primary job of a criminal defense attorney is two-fold. First, it is a defense attorney’s job to protect the rights of a client throughout the prosecution of a case. This entails making sure a client understands his/her rights as well as asserting those rights on behalf of a client when appropriate. For example, the right to remain silent should always be exercised by an accused unless an experienced criminal defense attorney is present and agrees that the right should be waived.  Second, a defense attorney’s job is to make sure that you are not convicted unless the State meets its burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In that regard, criminal attorneys work diligently to question the evidence presented by the prosecuting attorney and raise doubt with regard to testimony presented by witnesses.

Does It Matter If a Client Is Innocent or Guilty?

Because criminal lawyers are not required to prove that their clients are innocent, it doesn’t really matter if the client is guilty or innocent for an attorney to do his/her job well. In the U.S. criminal justice system, one of the most deeply held beliefs is that everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense. It is a criminal defense attorney’s job to provide that defense, whether the defendant actually committed the crime or not. In fact, it is not unusual for a criminal defense attorney to avoid asking a client of he/she committed to crime for which they are accused because knowing the answer to that question can be a distraction for the attorney. As a general rule, criminal attorneys only ask their clients questions for which they need an answer in order to prepare a defense. Therefore, if your criminal defense attorney doesn’t directly ask you if you are guilty it means that the attorney does not need and/or want to know the answer.

Contact Us

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Stan Bennett
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