Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney: What does that really mean?
The term, "aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney" is a term that means different things to different people. Some people believe that an aggressive criminal defense attorney is an attorney who is rude, aggressive, loud, demanding or otherwise aggressive toward the prosecution or even the judge. While this may occur on certain circumstances, should rarely if ever occur. As a criminal defense attorney I understand that i am the only person standing up for my client and speaking on his or her behalf in court. If needed, I will advocate and argue to the best of my abilities. However, to me, the term "aggressive criminal defense" takes on a whole different meaning a majority of the time.
What the term, "aggressive criminal defense" means to me is that I pursue leads, interview witnesses, and present the case in the best light that helps my client receive the best outcome on their case. Many times this is exactly opposite of what a person accused of a crime and having their first experience with the criminal justice systems expects. Their expectations of a television drama like argument will rarely come to fruition.
I view my job as a criminal defense attorney as an analyst to a gamble that my clients needs to be advised on. The gamble is the potential worst case scenario, often defined as maximum exposure to incarceration if the case is taken to trial and lost. One example of how this approach may work is, if a client is charged with Four Counts, leaving the client with a maximum exposure time of 16 years. I hire and investigator, get favorable witness statements, show proof of employment, and a stable history of law abiding behavior, and because of that information, the District Attorney makes an offer to dismiss three counts, and cap the exposure with a maximum of one year in country jail, and client may decide to take that offer. Or, the client may decide to continue with defending the case, thus wagering a maximum of 1 year in county jail against a maximum of 16 years in prison, with the possibility of winning the case and receiving no conviction at all. It is my job to lower the risk, or exposure, to the lowest possible amount before my client has to decide whether to risk the maximum exposure by proceeding to trial, or accept the offer of a maximum of one year in county jail.
A less aggressive defense attorney would simply ask for offers without providing the witness statements or favorable characteristics to he District Attorney, and for example may receive an offer of dismissing 2 counts, and capping the exposure at 6 years. Now, with a 6 year maximum if you plead guilty to two charges, as opposed to a maximum 16 years, it leaves the client vulnerable to taking a chance that could cost him without having the benefit of a choice to accept 1 year maximum with three counts dismissed, or risk 16 years. In all honesty, results are never guaranteed, and sometimes even the most aggressive defenses make no difference, but it is my job to try, and provide the best defense possible under the circumstances.
If nothing else, remember the District Attorney is the master of his/her own offer. We only get an offer if the District Attorney decides to give one. Broken down into the most basic form, it is similar to a child asking a parent for permission to stay out late, or go on a trip with their friends. You want to make sure you have done everything that you need to do, cleaned the house, good school report, no trouble, and taken the initiative. Then, you ask, after putting your best foot forward. That would be an "aggressive" approach to receiving the permission you need. A less well reasoned "aggressive approach" would be to yell and argue how you deserve to go, provide no good explanation such as a clean room, completed chores, and receiving high marks in school. Both are aggressive approaches, one is an "intelligent and aggressive" approach. I prefer the intelligent and aggressive approach.
Why is experience important for a criminal defense attorney and how should we measure experience?
Experience can be important because shows how familiar the attorney is with the District Attorney's office in that county, the courts, the judges, and how each county works. Each county has different District Attorneys, sentencing guidelines, and standard sentencing for each offense. A private attorney who practices in several legal areas and geographic locations, sometimes referred to as a, "Jack of All trades, master of none" may not have the relevant experience necessary. A public defender in one county who thereafter has transitioned in private practice and experienced numerous court rooms in one county with a wide array of cases along with a vast familiarity with the practices and negotiation patterns of the particular district attorney's office and the different personalities involved may be better suited to help. Years in practice is one method of defining experience. But take an attorney who has been an attorney for two years, but handled, literally hundred of cases and had multiple trials in those two years. Compare that attorney to one who has been an attorney for 15 years, handled about 600 cases, only litigated a couple trials, and recently moved to the area. Which attorney has more relevant experience?