How in the heck can you defend those people?!
When I’m at social events and I tell people that I’m a criminal defense attorney, many times, I am answered with disgust, “How can you possibly defend those people?!” But, more interesting, however, after I explain why I chose my career and the roll of a criminal defense lawyer, disgust is replaced with gratitude.
The roll of a criminal defense lawyer
People often ask the question, then become positive when I explain the roots of the roll of a criminal defense lawyer in our country’s criminal justice system. Quite simply, the roll of a criminal defense lawyer is to both protect the rights of those wrongfully charged AND the rights of those who are correctly charged. We fight to ensure that the Constitutional rights of every citizen are not infringed and that the guilty are not overly punished. Sadly, in our world, punishment is often dictated by political agendas and political correctness – both of which skew justice.
DWI is unfair
The reality of the DWI world is that if you took everyone that was wrongfully charged under all other crimes under the Texas Penal Code, and you compared it with everyone wrongfully charged with a DWI, experience demonstrates that the number of innocent DWI defendants would outnumber all the rest of the defendants combined.
The Opinion Crime
A big reason for the anomaly is because DWI is an OPINION crime that allows a stranger (the officer) the power to judge what the arrested person’s normal coordination is (or isn’t) on the side of the road in the middle of the night. This stranger is compelling a person to prove normalcy and sobriety by performing abnormal tests under a grading system that gives zero credit for satisfactory performance, provides for no practice, and ultimately penalizes for not being perfect. Under this protocol, the arrested is asked to perform very difficult tasks regardless of mental state, natural coordination, balance, or health.
The signs are misleading.
Contrary to popular belief, the highway signs that say, “Drink. Drive. Go to Jail.” are NOT the law. These signs serve as very good propaganda, but neither a sign, nor officer, nor lawyer decide guilt—our citizens and a jury do. The Texas legislature has declared that it is legal to consume an alcoholic beverage and drive as long as a person is not intoxicated. A whole industry has been built around responsible drinking. It’s why bars have parking lots. It’s why restaurants serve alcohol. It’s why you can consume a beer at a ball game and subsequently drive as long as you’re not impaired.
Police officers have a difficult job and our society could not function without them. However, when it comes to DWI’s, they are indoctrinated not to use their entire discretion. They are trained to jump to conclusions and believe that there is no such thing as responsible drinking and driving. They are trained to assume if you do not exercise perfect coordination and motor skills on the roadside alcohol is the sole reason why.
Your rights under the Constitution
I’m not saying that no one ever drives impaired. On the contrary, there are times when a criminal defense lawyer knows someone is guilty. We also know that our justice system does not always pursue justice when a citizen is accused of a crime. It is for that reason that when accused of a crime—no matter the crime—every person is due the right to an ethical and professional defense lawyer who will zealously protect his or her rights to a fair trial, to not be overly punished, and to make sure the system doesn’t cheat them.