One of the most frequent questions that I get from friends, family, and strangers when discussing my career as a criminal defense attorney is some variation of “how do you defend THOSE people?” or “how do you do what you do and sleep at night?”
It’s a question I have come to dread, because so many people want to hear a stock answer about how everyone is entitled to a defense, and somebody needs to do it. Blah, blah, blah.
The truth is really that those questions are things that have never crossed my mind in any real way. And the reason why I do what I do for a living has nothing to do with simply making sure that defendants get the minimal constitutional protections that come with having a lawyer to represent them. While I like to view myself as a constitutional warrior, fighting to protect the rights that we have all been given, preserving those rights for everyone is merely a fringe benefit of the job.
The reality, for me and many of my criminal defense lawyer colleagues, is that I get to spend my days caring about and making a huge difference in the lives of some really great people. “Those” people, the people who are accused of crimes, are people that I fall in love with on a daily basis. They are your father, your sister, your cousin, your child. They are people.
Now, if we are being real, the truth is that I have seen some really, really bad things. My clients, sometimes, are people who have done some really, really bad things. But what I have learned in the course of doing this job is that good people do some bad things, and that every human being has some good inside of them. You just have to look for it.
That’s my job. My job is to look for the good. I am on a search for good facts. I am on a quest to discover the great qualities my client has to offer. I go with my clients on a journey to discover the truth, not just about the allegations that they are facing, but about themselves and their lives. I get the honor of being a storyteller on their behalf.
“But what if you KNOW that your client is guilty?” people will ask. “How do you justify defending them?”
The honest truth? I don’t care if my client is guilty. I love my guilty clients the same way that I love the innocent ones. This job has blessed me with the ability to see past what the client may or may not have done, and not look at the human being and their life as being defined by a thing that they did, or a decision that they made. I am there to be on the side of my client, no matter what, and I will not change the level of representation that they get based upon their guilt or innocence. I will do everything in my power to learn their story and try to help them in their moment of need.
I am incredibly lucky to be a criminal defense lawyer. My clients have trusted me to help them in what often is their rock bottom moment in life. But I have gained so much from watching them persevere through facing down the vast resources of our government, through loss of their freedoms, through stress and pain and fear. I have learned so much about myself and who I want to be as a person. I have been given gifts that I can never fully repay.
The other factor that plays into my love for this job is that I have always had somewhat of an anti-authority bent. If you tell me that I need to do something one way, I want to do it another way just to prove you wrong. I have always had that part of me that wants to question the people in charge.
The thing about doing this job is that it has only confirmed for me that authority SHOULD be questioned. The government can do some things that are pretty darn out of control, and it can ruin the lives of good people in a heartbeat. The problem with the people that work for the government is that they can often do some well-intentioned things that have some pretty terrible effects on innocent people. The even bigger problem is that the government has almost unlimited resources in whatever they do.
So, I essentially get to help David in his fight against Goliath. And who doesn’t love an underdog? Even better, there are times when I just get to topple Goliath. There is no better feeling.
So, how do I sleep at night? Very well, thank you.
If you are accused of a crime, and are searching for a Michigan criminal defense attorney to help you in your fight, contact Miel & Carr, PLC at 616-773-2945 for a consultation.