Do I Need an Attorney?

giving police a statementGetting arrested for anything is a trying time for anyone. The stress it can place on someone can often be as bad as the stress one would feel discovering they have a serious medical condition.

A person who has been arrested is often an emotional wreck, full of confusion about the future and remorse for their own behavior or lack of judgement at a crucial moment. This is especially true in cases where the person charged is not really a ‘criminal’ in the traditional sense of the word.

Perhaps they had a little too much to drink, and honestly believed they were okay to drive home from the party. Or maybe they slipped out back, behind the nightclub, to burn a joint with some friends, not considering the police might be expecting this type of behavior, having seen it before.

Suddenly, a pleasant gathering to share a blunt becomes a personal nightmare, with police sweeping in, seemingly from nowhere as if they dropped from the sky, and the next thing you know, you’re sitting in the back of a squad car in handcuffs.

Then it’s the long ride downtown, and a day or two sitting in the holding cells, eating baloney sandwiches and talking to the other unfortunates who also made a poor decision at the wrong moment.

Some of those folks they’re sharing the cells with may not be nice people at all, but hardened criminals with a history of behavior that goes beyond a simple case of bad judgement. It can be a very traumatic time.

Even after being released, whether on bail or on their own recognizance (ROR), the initial feeling of joy soon gives way to a feeling of fear for their future, which can often turn to despair. The thought of facing one’s spouse or their employer and having to explain why they didn’t come home last night or never made it to work the next morning, can be overwhelming and can often lead to bouts of anxiety and even depression.

Thoughts of losing one’s job, or maybe even something as serious as a divorce over the arrest, can be terrifying, even to the strongest individual.

It is often very much like being a doctor, for an attorney in these situations. The “patient” is afraid, and wants reassurance that everything will turn out right. Doctors–and attorneys– can often seem cold and unfeeling as they matter-of-factually lay out the potential cures and outcomes, many times times with the cold numbers and calculations one would expect from their accountant.

Many times, they just want a hug and to be told everything is going to be fine. Unfortunately, that is not what Doctors and attorneys do.

No good Doctor or Attorney is going to hold out false hope in an otherwise serious situation. They’re going to talk about the facts of the case, and the potential remedies and procedures that must be undertaken, often with absolutely no guarantee of success. They have to prepare their ‘patients’ for outcomes that may in fact be undesirable.

And there are times when, because of circumstances like mandatory minimum sentences, the most an Attorney can do– even Perry Mason– is minimize the potential damage and long-term effects.

This is why it’s important to maintain good relations with area law enforcement and the judicial system in general. Very often, the severity of punishment– and even the actual charges– can be negotiated to cause less damage. This is the reason one should never go to court without an experienced and respected Attorney representing them.

One of my clients told me, during a series of court appearances, that the first time in court, he wanted me to jump up on the table and loudly proclaim his innocence. What he got instead was a calmly executed postponement, on designed to give everyone involved– Prosecutors, the arresting officer and the accused– time to reflect on the nature of the crime, and in doing so, allow the accused to show they are not out running around committing more crimes, thereby making it easier to negotiate a more favorable settlement of the issue.

In the case I just mentioned, my client was initially upset, until the end of the process, where I had been able to get some charges dropped, and others reduced, until my client was able to receive a favorable ruling from the judge that limited their exposure.

At the end of his trial, he turned to me with a smile of relief and said, “You’re like a brain surgeon– all calm and calculating, making small incisions that didn’t make things worse, until you found a way to minimize the potential damage.”

As with medicine, the same is true of legal matters. The job of the Doctor, or the Attorney, is to first do no harm. So although there are times when I might seem cold and unfeeling about a case, rest assured that’s not how I feel inside. It does no good for my client if I show undue emotion, to the point of being upset myself. And make no mistake, I have, on more than one occasion, after obtaining someone’s freedom, had to take a private moment for myself, where I can heave that sigh of relief, and even shed a tear, knowing I was able to do my job and have a positive impact on someone who was facing serious consequences.

But, I’ll never let my client see that. I want them to know that I am there to get them out of the trouble they’re in, not make them feel better about it.

That’s my job, and that’s why any time someone is facing criminal charges, they should hire an attorney with a proven track record of successfully defending their clients. That is, after all, the result we want most.

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