To many TV-watching people, a criminal defense lawyer is a hired gun whose job is to make sure that the bad guy goes free or gets off easy in return for handfuls of money. In real life, the defense lawyer is often the man or woman who is made available by law to ensure that the civil rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution are not violated. To explain how a criminal defense lawyer fulfills this vital role in the criminal justice system, we can examine one of the most frequently made arrests in the state of Georgia: Driving Under the Influence.
Despite what you may have assumed, a police officer may not stop a car just because the officer “thinks” that someone may be driving under the influence. The officer must have a valid reason (known as “probable cause”) to make a traffic stop. When there is no traffic law violation, the officer must have probable cause, like seeing a car weave back and forth or repeatedly drifting to one side of a lane, to suspect the driver may be impaired.
In our digital age, most police cars are equipped with dashboard video cameras. If the video cannot document the reason for a stop, probable cause is harder to prove and the case may be thrown out by the court.
Another procedure that is often cited is the roadside sobriety test. The fact that a driver performs poorly on such a test could be explained by the driver being ill or having a physical disability. If an explanation for “failing” the test is available, it could lead to the rejection of the test by a court.
Finally, most police officers know that the roadside sobriety test is not incontrovertible proof that someone is intoxicated but is only a reason to augment probable cause to then administer more reliable tests such as a “Breathalyzer” or a blood test. However, they will often persuade a driver that the a DUI charge has been proven on the roadside when, in actuality, it proves a driver may have been drinking but does not prove the driver’s alcohol level was over the legal limit.
Proving the charge
When a person is arrested, it is the responsibility of a government prosecutor to prove the charge; it’s not the responsibility of the accused to prove that he or she is innocent. In the case of a DUI arrest, the only ways to prove that a suspect was legally intoxicated is by a breathalyzer test or by the more accurate blood test that is analyzed by a laboratory. If the breathalyzer is not operated by an officer who is trained and certified in its operation, the results cannot be used in court. The same is true for a blood test: if not properly drawn or not tested by an approved lab, the results could be thrown out.
The role of the defense lawyer is not to help the client “beat the rap” or walk away from a charge. The defense lawyer is there to make sure that the police are accountable for proving that the accused is indeed guilty of the charge and that the constitutional rights of the person or persons were not unjustly detained by an illegal arrest. The defense lawyer will point out any errors in how the evidence in case was obtained or how it was handled after the arrest. This is what a defense lawyer is legally and morally obligated to do: to make the state prove the defendant’s guilt rather than have the defendant prove his or her innocence.
Defense attorneys are vital to protecting our judicial system from abuse by government agencies that may have political reasons to persecute citizens.
This is why anyone finding themselves facing a criminal charge has the right to be represented by a criminal defense lawyer: to ensure that they receive fair hearing on their day in court. If you have been accused of an offense, Tate Law Group has experienced and dedicated attorneys that can help you arrive at a just result in your court case.