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How to would one deal with a conscience when advocating for an individual who have clear signs for guilt Does that warrant dropping the case? Or is one’s conscience worth the risk??

How to would one deal with a conscience when advocating for an individual who has clear signs for guilt? Does that warrant dropping the case? Or is one’s conscience worth the risk?

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Brittany’s Answer

Helle Deshanae,

If I am reading your question correctly, you want to know how a lawyer can defend someone that appears to be guilty.

In my mind, a cornerstone of a great country and government is the ability to have a fair trial. In a perfect world, everyone is held accountable for their actions, and a trial/court decision is part of determining guilt, and the appropriate consequences to hold guilty people accountable. But we also know its not a perfect world, and guilty people are not held accountable, some innocent people are sent to jail, and some sentences that people receive are too long or harsh for the crime they committed.

As a lawyer, your role should be to help your client receive the fairest trial and treatment possible. Even a guilty person serves fairness and an appropriate sentence for the type of crime they committed. A good lawyer is there to help that person navigate the court system, make sure that only relevant and factual information is used in making any conviction, and hopefully ensure their client is held fairly accountable and not treated too harshly.

You can do all this while maintaining your own integrity and conscience by telling the truth, telling your client the truth by setting expectations, and treating all people, guilty or innocent, like a person that deserves fairness. If you can do that, you can still be successful and proud of the work you did, even when helping a guilty person.

I hope this is helpful to you!
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Andy’s Answer

Hello Deshanae,

Law is a difficult field that has many ethical challenges, but I believe your challenge largely comes down to perspective. For many cases, it is difficult to truly "know" if someone has actually committed the offense or crime. Even with certain evidence where someone may "confess", they could have simply been under pressure and may have thought that this was the only correct answer (even if they didn't do it). Similarly, it is a known fact that police interrogations can cause innocent people to testify to crimes they never committed.

Thus, you must represent any client to the best of your ability, even if you believe that they are guilty or in the wrong. Instead allow the court and opposition to prove that your client is guilty either beyond a reasonable doubt or by a preponderance of the evidence (criminal or civil). Furthermore, if you can't sleep at night because you have such great issue representing a client, give someone else the case and find other clients. If you continue to struggle to represent every client, it may be best to practice a different kind of law for your long term mental health.

Remember, the legal system was built in a way to limit the amount of innocent people in imprisoned and this may mean that prosecutors can't put away criminals that are "obviously" guilty. Yet, this is not a defense lawyer's fault that their client wasn't prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but instead the prosecutors for not providing enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt!
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Kim’s Answer

Deshanae,

Brittany gives an excellent response!

No matter how "guilty" a person is, they still deserve a fair trial. If police officers did anything wrong in obtaining the evidence, it is your role to get the evidence excluded at trial. If that means your client is acquitted, it means the prosecution did not do a good job in presenting their case. That's not your fault - it's the prosecution's. If you can believe that, you will be fine. If your client later murders someone, and you think it's your fault for helping them get off, you are correct- you won't be able to live with yourself. Never do anything that makes you ashamed of the person you are. You have to be able to have a positive self-image, a clear conscience, and an intact integrity.

But, there are lots of different types of law. You don't have to do criminal defense!

Kim
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Mark W.’s Answer

I'm agreeing with Brittany's answer, and specifically: Overcharging is very common.

Is your client guilty of a lesser offense? Maybe. Is your client guilty of the greater offense that they are being charged with? Maybe not.

You can help your client, who may in fact be guilty, and serve justice by making sure the charges are appropriate and supported by evidence.

In any event, it is 100% perfectly okay to defend a person whom you know is guilty. The system is adversarial, and you would be the only person exclusively concerned with the rights of the defendant. That's needed and necessary.
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a’s Answer

But if mean defending someone who you may believe is guilty then you have to remember that everyone has a right to a fair and equitable and good and proper defense against accusations or the accuser it’s our constitutional right and remember that with so many wrongful convictions and false eyewitness testimony and false statements snd accusations and false reports and perjury for so many reasons like jealousy or vengeance or to discredit someone or pay back there have cases where people were made to believe snd state they were guilty then found innocent do do the best you can or you can recluse yourself when another attorney can handle case
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