When I started law school, I did not know what type of law I wanted to practice. During my first year of law school, we practiced appearing in front of judges and arguing like we were in Court. From that experience, I knew I wanted to do that type of work, I wanted to be in front of a judge arguing and helping people. After my first year of law school, I started working for the public defender’s office in Washington County. This is where I got to see what the criminal justice system was really like and sent me on my path to being a criminal defense attorney.
While working at the public defender’s office I saw people at the lowest points of their lives. People who had made mistakes, people who were not getting a fair chance, and people who were facing criminal charges that should not be. The one thing all those people had in common was they were looking for help and I got to provide that. I have always enjoyed helping people whether it was teammates in sports, classmates in school, or my younger sisters. Criminal defense work for me is another way I get to help people. Specifically, help people get back on their feet and on a positive forward-looking path. Sometimes this means helping people who made a bad decision and trying to make sure the consequences do not ruin their lives. Other times it is helping people who did nothing wrong and should not have to face criminal charges at all. That last situation is probably the biggest reason I am a criminal defense attorney; the ability to make change and ensure the criminal system is fair for everyone.
Anyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But if you ask people charged with a crime, they likely will tell you that is not how it feels. A criminal defense attorney gets to bring the criminal justice system back to the way it is supposed to be. We get to hold the other side of the case accountable for their actions whether it is a prosecutor, police officer, or an accuser. Just as there are laws people are not supposed to break, there are rules prosecutors and police Officers are supposed to follow. The biggest of these rules are the protections embedded within the Constitution. Every lawyer takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and I think many lawyers lose sight of that. But as a criminal defense attorney I get a chance to uphold the Constitution everyday and ensure that every person gets the same protections. Everyone learns about the Constitution at some point but not everyone gets to learn the ins-and-outs of it like lawyers do, and I take joy in ensuring that everyone receives those protections.
I get to help people who potentially had their Constitutional protections violated, often by someone who was educated in the Constitution. I get to make sure that everyone who is charged with a crime gets a fair chance at having their story heard. I get the opportunity to help people that were failed by the state and defend them against people who refuse to look beyond the charging paperwork. I get the opportunity to help people facing some of the toughest situations of their lives and ensure that they are treated fairly. I get to ensure that the system of Justice we have created is done correctly.
Innocence is the starting point for any case, not guilt.