A large number of civilians are often unable to understand how it is that a criminal defense attorney is able or even allowed to defend a "guilty" client. Many times, this lack of understanding paints a bad picture of the noble profession that is criminal defense work.
There are various reasons that justify the need to defend a client who may be guilty of a criminal offense. Three of these reasons are discussed below for the benefit of those training to become criminal law practitioners.
The Right To Representation
The criminal justice system is designed to protect the interests of both the plaintiff and the accused person in a criminal case simultaneously. This is done by ensuring that the accused person and the plaintiff are both given a fair hearing.
Legal representation is an integral component of any fair hearing. Thus, the fact that an individual may be guilty of the crime(s) that he or she is accused of should not be used an as excuse to deprive the accused person of his or her right to legal representation in a criminal case. This explains why the government may appoint a defense attorney for those accused of criminal offenses in the event that the accused does not have the financial capacity to pay for the service of a private criminal defense lawyer.
The Role Of The Defense Attorney In A Criminal Case
Understanding the role of a defense attorney in a criminal case is important when looking to justify the need to defend a client who may be guilty of an offense.
The main duty of a defense lawyer in a criminal case is to zealously protect the interests (freedom) of their client. A large number of civilians believe that the lawyer's duty in a criminal case is to ensure that "justice is served". However, the responsibility of ensuring that justice is served (and is seen to be served) falls on the shoulder of the presiding judge in a criminal case.
The False Charge
In certain cases, the defendant in a criminal case is not responsible for the crime that he or she is accused of.
For example, the defendant may be charged with manslaughter when he or she is actually guilty of second-degree murder which is considered a lesser crime in criminal justice. In the absence of a criminal defense attorney, the accused person is likely to be charged and/or convicted of an offense that he or she did not commit.