Justin M. Crozier April 11, 2016

As a person who works in Criminal Defense I get questions, on occasion, about defending guilty people. How can I, an ostensibly good person, defend people who are guilty? How can I try and put murderers and rapists back on the street?  How can I spend my waking hours attempting to free people who are "bad people?"

I think all of these are the wrong questions.  I don't do any of that, I guess its possible that it COULD be the result, but it almost certainly isn't. For the most part guilty people go to jail. Unfortunately, so do innocnt people.

The Real Issues it Hard to Understand

The real issue isn't protecting guilty people. The real issue is harder, in many ways, to understand. When I defend a person who is guilty, when I try to keep them out of jail and make sure the cops play by the rules, when I make sure the evidence is what it is actually supposed to be, I am protecting the innocent.

That is a pretty strange idea, I know.  In order for what I said to make sense you have to know that the innocent don't get to assert constitutional protections.  "HU-WHAAAT?!"  you might be asking.  How can innocent people not be protected by the constitution?  Well, they are kinda.  BUT you only get the PROTECTION of the constitution when it has been VIOLATED and that violation means you are GUILTY.

Consider this, if the police bust into your house without a warrant search the place and find no drugs, no counterfeit money, and no underage prostitutes what are you going to do about that?  Well, there is no evidence to keep out of trial.  The fourth amendment was violated, but it doesn't matter because you are not going to be on trial.  The cops just ran over your rights and you can't really do anything about it. Crazy, right?

Now, what if those same cops found that kilo of cocaine you had been hiding?  Oh... now we can keep that evidence out.  But wait a minute!  You're guilty of having cocaine!!  You should go to jail, you animal!!!  Well, there you go.  If the cops had played by the rules and had a search warrant then you would be going to jail.  But the cops decided to say "hell with the rules, lets get 'em!"

To that, I say no thank you.  The only way I know to protect innocent people's rights is to make sure that the cops play by the rules with guilty people too.  If the cops know that they can't use the unconstitutional evidence then they will think twice about entering into someone's house without a warrant.

There is actually a case out of California (the name escapes me, and I don't want to research it right now) in the 40's, maybe early 50's, where the police broke into someones house without a warrant.  They were proud of it.  They testified, on the stand, that one guy broke in a window and the other guy kicked in the door.  There was no punishment, at the time, if a cop did this.  You just kind of shook your head and then the cop put the guy in jail.  Well, we realized that this isn't okay.

Today, we don't let that evidence come in.  We say it is poisonous.  And if it leads you to some other damning evidence then that is "fruit of the poisoned tree" (you probably heard that on law and order(if your in your thirties or older)).

We decided that protecting the rights of people is more important than putting people in jail.

I agree with that.

That is the reason that I will happily fight to stop the police from violating the rules.  It is why I will do my best to protect the rights of the guilty.  I do it so that the innocent are protected.  In America we have a long history of fighting and doing dark deeds to protect others.  While you may not want people defending the guilty, you need it.

When I was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division I saw a sign with a quote from George Orwell that really struck a chord in me, "People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."  Of course, that was because in the Army you learn that you may have to kill people so that other people never have to face that nightmare.  But, the same principle applies in criminal defense.  

The guilty will be protected so that men and women may sleep peacefully in their beds knowing that underpaid lawyers stand ready to keep those in power from trampling their rights.

Good luck out there.