Here are some things you should know before becoming a criminal defense attorney:
- The State has the burden to prove that your client is guilty and that all proper constitutional procedures were followed before they bring charges.
- Most of your cases will mainly consist of negotiations between you, on behalf of your client, and the Assistant District Attorney which will end up with your client pleading to a lesser offense than he/she was charged with.
- Many of your clients will be guilty, but that does not take away the State's burden to ensure all constitutional procedures are followed and that they prove your client's guild beyond all reasonable doubt.
- You are an advocate for your client. With that said, if you have a fundamental principle that you cannot overcome in your representation (i.e. child molesters), then by all means - do not take child molestation cases.
- Even if your client is guilty, you still need compassion and understanding to assist him/her in surviving the ordeal he/she is in.
- Be honest with your client - don't sugar coat. Let them know the maximum penalties they are facing, the evidence that the State has against them, and what you feel your chances will be at trial. Don't ever promise your client you will "get them off." Being honest with your client about the situation he/she is in is part of being a good attorney.
Rhonda recommends the following next steps:
- Check with your county/parish Public Defender's Office to see if there are any volunteer or unpaid internship possibilities.
- Watch your local news for upcoming criminal trials, or simply find out when the next criminal trial will be held at your county/parish courthouse and sit in to experience how things work procedurally in the courtroom.