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The Duty of the Defense Counsel is to Defend at All Costs

When someone is accused of a crime – from a minor misdemeanor like shoplifting to a serious felony like murder – they should always be able to depend on at least one person: the defense counsel. In the often-tumultuous environment of the courtroom, no matter what the prosecution and investigators throw into the arena, the defendant can lean on or stand behind the criminal defense attorney of their choice for protection. This duty of the defense counsel is so important, it is often translated unofficially as “The defense counsel must defend the defendant at all costs.”

Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has upheld and clearly defined this inalienable duty of the defense counsel. It has stated that the defendant’s legal counsel “must defend his [or her] client whether he [or she] is guilty.” To some, this legal mandate might be quite surprising, but it is actually the backbone of our criminal justice system here in America. Everyone is guaranteed the right to a fair trial, after all, not just the innocent.

Holding the Criminal Justice System to a High Standard

If the State cannot use its resources to prove that a crime has been committed, it does not deserve the opportunity to penalize the defendant, even if he or she knows that they have committed a legal offense. The Supreme Court has held that a defense counselor “can confuse a witness, even a truthful one, or make him [or her] appear at a disadvantage, unsure or indecisive” when protecting the rights of the defendant. What’s more, the defense counsel is permitted to “put the State’s case in the worst possible light, regardless of what he [or she] thinks or knows to be the truth” so long as it is to defend the accused.

Quite clearly, these mandates show that the criminal justice system is expected to be nothing less than perfect when allowing the conviction of a defendant deemed guilty, and that the defendant’s name is more important to uphold than that of the State. The conviction can only be granted when the State’s proof is shown well beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, the defense counsel can be told directly by the defendant that he or she committed the crime in question but the defense must still act as if the accused is innocent.

Special Considerations for the Defendant’s Case

When the defense counsel is constructing a defense for the accused, it is permitted and expected to be “complete.” That is to say, specific hearsay rules and certain rules of evidence must attempted to be overridden by the defense counsel to provide ample protection to the defendant, even when it is known that the evidence is both necessary and credible in context to the case. The defense counsel can also try to dismantle the truthful statements of a witness through cross-examination with more tenacity than would be permitted of the prosecution in a similar situation.

Further Legal Backing for the Defense Counsel’s Duty

The importance of the defense counsel and the unwavering duty of the defense counsel has been propped up again and again throughout the history of the United States’ criminal justice system. In re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257, 273 of 1948, Justice Black re-outlined the crucial rights of the defendant in his statement: “A person's right to reasonable notice of a charge against him, and an opportunity to be heard in his defense -- a right to his day in court -- are basic in our system of jurisprudence; and these rights include, as a minimum, a right to examine the witnesses against him, to offer testimony, and to be represented by counsel.” The Constitution itself also acts as groundwork for the defense counsel’s duty within the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Confrontation Clauses of the Sixth Amendment.

[For further resources and explanations, interested parties may wish to reference the cases of Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284 (1972); Washington v. Texas, 388 U.S. 14 (1967); Green v. Georgia, 442 U.S. 95 (1979); Holmes v. S. Carolina, 547 U.S. 319 (2006), United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218 (1967).]

A Criminal Defense Lawyer You Can Trust with Your Freedom

The critical importance of the defense counsel’s duty to protect the accused at all costs is not lost on Dublin criminal defense Attorney Ivan Morse of the Law Office of Ivan O.B. Morse. Indeed, Attorney Morse is renowned throughout the region for never backing down when a client’s freedom and future hangs in the balance. If you believe you require the assistance of a defense lawyer with his focus, skill, and experience for a case of your own, do not hesitate to call toll-free 888.865.0741 or fill out an online contact form.