Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Was "The State" (Explained)

Most people who seek out my services are aware that before I became a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney I had an earlier career as an assistant county attorney.  That's right, I was a DA, a prosecutor - and guy who was looking to put people behind bars.

The question I'm often asked on this part of my background is -  Does that make you a better Criminal Defense Attorney?

In a word: Yes. 

Not only did being a prosecutor expose me to the practice of criminal law on a full time basis, it also afforded me the opportunity to work a large number of criminal cases (of any and all types) from simple traffic tickets up to serious felonies including serious Theft, Assault and Drug Charges.  This experience also afforded me something that most people plying the criminal defense trade do not posses - an insight into the government's schemes and motivations.  And it is this inside knowledge that has aided me to in winning my clients the results that they're seeking.

The Switch

My career started out clerking for a district court judge - and in that capacity I got to see the case from the best position in the courtroom - right next to the judge.  I was back in chambers when all of the pre-trial horsetrading was going on and I was there when the tough decision had to be made.  In that time, I definitely learned a lot seeing some of the best lawyers in the state plying their trade on a day to day basis.  Subsequent to that, I reluctantly transitioned into the county attorney's office.  In many ways, I went that direction, first, because I really wanted to hone my skills - to get some extensive litigation work under my belt before I went out on the open market --- asking people to put their fates in my hands.

The Advantages

My experience as a prosecutor has provide me several special benefits as a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney - and in the end this has worked to the advantage of my clients.to a defense lawyer.

Trial Experience. A very active defense attorney who enjoys trial (and works hard to get good results for his clients as opposed to doing no work and setting everything for trial) may end up trying 3 to 6 cases a year on average. While numbers vary for prosecutors based on whether they handle felony or misdemeanor cases and the size of the city they are in, most prosecutors try a case to jury every 1-3 weeks. So years spent as a former prosecutor are years where the lawyer gets a lot of experience trying cases and handling all the preparation, strategy, and execution that goes into a criminal trial.

Negotiation Experience. While case loads vary, in large part because the jobs and roles are different, defense lawyers often carry case loads of 100 or less at any given time (some carry more than that but at the cost of not having enough time to put enough work into each case). Prosecutors typically handle over a thousand cases a year, sometimes more depending on the size of the city, the size of the county budget, the number of prosecutors, and the way cases are assigned.

Most prosecutors are in court every day. On any given day prosecutors may negotiate with defense lawyers, have hearings in front of a judge, or argue pre-trial motions. They face constant pressure with heavy caseloads and a steady influx of new cases. A prosecutor must figure out a fair plea offer, think on his or her feet, and change mental gears quickly depending on what is required.

These skills are invaluable in a defense practice. Defense lawyers who learned to handle the role of the prosecutor are comfortable in the courtroom, able to move at the same mental pace as the prosecutor, and have the skill for plea-bargaining born from negotiating with hordes of lawyers day after day.

Perspective. A former prosecutor brings a unique asset to your case that other defense attorneys lack - perspective. This criminal defense lawyer can put himself or herself in the mind of the prosecutor with ease, because he or she once was one. This defense lawyer can evaluate the facts of your case with a prosecutor’s eyes, anticipate the arguments they’ll make, the procedural maneuvers they’ll try to make, and the initial reaction they’ll have to defense arguments. Experienced defense attorneys can also do this to some degree, but its much more difficult to do well without having the experience of having once worked as a prosecutor. Ultimately, this perspective will allow your criminal defense lawyer to more skillfully defend you and better present your case.

What You Should Do

If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, your best bet is to touch base with an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney.  Meet with that person, see if he listens and understands what you'd like to see come of your case.  In the end, no matter the price or experience, you have to be able to trust the person you hire.  Remember, you get one chance at this - don't go it alone.

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