Most people operate under a whole slew of misconceptions about attorneys in general, and criminal defense attorneys in particular. Many of these misconceptions are the result of the way in which lawyers are frequently portrayed in movies and on television. If you have never before needed the services of a criminal defense attorney, what reason would you have to ascertain the veracity of those misconceptions? If you now find yourself charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Nebraska, however, you may find yourself wondering what is true and what is fiction. For example, you may be wondering how DUI lawyers can possibly defend guilty clients?
A Common Misconception
Hollywood has a tendency to portray criminal defense lawyers as champions of justice and protectors of the innocent. How often does the plot involve a wrongly accused person who would have ended up in prison but for the criminal defense attorney who believed in his/her innocence? Although that does occasionally happen, any criminal defense attorney will tell you that the vast majority of his/her clients are guilty of the accusations against them and the vast majority of those clients freely admit they are guilty. It would be simple, therefore, to say that DUI lawyers would have no clients if they refused to defend guilty clients. While there may be truth in that answer, there is more to it than that.
The Prosecutors’ Burden
In the United States, our criminal justice system operates under the concept of “innocent until proven guilty.” The presumption of innocence, in fact, is the cornerstone of our criminal justice system. As such, the burden in a criminal prosecution is on the State (via the prosecuting attorney) to prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A defendant is not required to develop any defense – and in some cases the best strategy is exactly that, to let the prosecutor rest his/her case and count on the judge or jury to realize that the prosecutor’s burden has not been met. In most cases, the defendant does put on at least a rudimentary defense; however, the important thing to understand is that when the system operates as it was intended to operate, it is the prosecution that must present a winning case, not the defendant.
A Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Job
With the presumption of innocence as a starting point, the job of a criminal defense attorney (in real life) is a bit easier to understand. A criminal defense lawyer is not required to prove a client’s innocence. Often, a client’s guilt or innocence is actually irrelevant to a defense attorney. A defense attorney has two primary functions. The first is to make sure that a client’s rights are not violated. The second is to make sure that a client is not convicted unless the State has met its burden of proving the client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Protecting a client’s rights has nothing whatsoever to do with culpability. Constitutional rights and privileges apply to everyone without regard to guilt or innocence. As for preventing a conviction, the reality is that sometimes a conviction cannot be avoided. That should only be the case, however, when the prosecution has overwhelming evidence of guilt and that evidence was all obtained without violating the defendant’s rights.
Defending the Guilty
When a DUI client retains the services of a DUI defense attorney, that attorney may never even broach the subject of guilt with the client. Instead, that attorney will delve into the case from the opposite end, with a focus on the evidence the State has against the client. One thing an attorney cannot do is to knowingly suborn perjury. If a client admits guilt to his/her attorney, the attorney cannot put the client on the stand and allow him/her to testify to the contrary. A criminal defense attorney can, however, most certainly defend a guilty client.
Contact the DUI Lawyers at Petersen Law Office
If you find yourself charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Nebraska, contact a DUI lawyer at Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense lawyer.