When you think of a criminal defense lawyer in RI, you probably imagine someone out to prove their client is innocent. Technically, this isn’t their job. The primary role of a criminal defense attorney is not to prove innocence. In fact, this isn’t even needed because in the eyes of the law, the defendant is already presumed to be innocent. The role of a criminal defense lawyer is to protect their clients’ legal rights. An attorney does this by ensuring justice is served. They carry out various tasks in order to do so, which includes conducting legal research and filing motions with the court.
A Defendant’s Legal Rights
Defendants have various rights afforded to them in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments of the US Constitution. These include, but are not limited to:
#1 The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures: Without a warrant or probable cause, the police cannot search a person or their property or take someone into custody.
#2 The right to remain silent: People cannot be compelled to make any statements against themselves, preventing them from saying anything that could be self-incriminating.
#3 The right to confront witnesses: The defendant’s attorney can cross-examine witnesses, allowing the opportunity for the jury and judge to decide for themselves the credibility of the witness and believability of the statements.
#4 The right to a public trial: This protection ensures that the defendant’s proceedings are fair and prevents misconduct from occurring that would unfairly lead to a conviction.
#5 The right to be heard by an impartial jury: This right creates fairness by allowing the outcome to be determined by the community rather than one person who may act according to the commands of a higher authority.
#6 The right to counsel: Accused persons can choose to have an attorney represent them. If they cannot afford one, one will be appointed to them.
Ensuring Justice is Served
The prosecutor’s job is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of all elements of the alleged offense. If their job is to prove guilt, the defense attorney’s job is to prove innocence, right? Not quite. One may assume since the prosecutor presents evidence to prove guilt, the defense presents evidence to prove innocence. This is not quite how it plays out, though. A defense attorney instead demonstrates weaknesses in the prosecutor’s proof and lays bare how the prosecutor has failed to meet their burden. They don’t have to “prove” anything, but simply show the other side didn’t meet their burden of proof. By making well-thought-out arguments, the defense lawyer says that, if we follow the rules of law, a judge or jury cannot be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the alleged crime. Without this reasonable doubt, the judge or jury cannot convict the individual. The proof of their guilt hasn’t been met.
This is how justice is served, and it’s how all of us benefit. A defense lawyer’s duties play a crucial part in ensuring that there are no miscarriages of justice. Without a defense lawyer digging into the details of the arrest and scrutinizing the actions of the law enforcement officials during the investigation and the prosecutors during the trial, a person could be unjustly found guilty of a crime. This is bad for everyone who lives in this country.
Without criminal defense lawyers ensuring justice is served, authorities could introduce whatever evidence against the defendant, regardless of how it was collected or whether it was relevant, and send an innocent person to prison.