Why Do We Lawyers Defend Sex Offenders?
As a New Jersey criminal attorney who defends people accused of Megan’s Law offenses such as child molestation, Internet predation, child endangerment, wrongful sexual touching, child pornography, luring and aggravated sexual assault upon a child, I am frequently asked, “How can you represent somebody who did such a thing?” The answer is that I enjoy it.
To begin, it is important to remember that criminal lawyers endorse neither the crime nor the alleged criminal. Our job is to examine, and then challenge or discredit, potentially incriminating evidence produced by the state against our client. This is the only way to ensure that the police and the courts give everyone the full protection of our legal system. We prevent them from convicting defendants until after the state has proven guilt beyond a doubt.
Our sexual offense clients are flesh-and-blood people to us, not mere names in a newspaper article or faceless monsters. They may be anyone. Male or female. A pillar of the community or a scofflaw drifter. A first-time defendant or a repeat offender. Some earn millions of dollars, others are unemployable. But they are all people who are very afraid, and rightfully so. We understand that. Our sexual offense clients are not just numbers and statistics any more than their alleged victims are. They are someone’s child, parent, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, best friend or neighbor. Each is entitled to the protection of the Constitution. In Megan’s Law cases, even that protection needs protection.
The vigorous defense of an alleged child abuser, internet predator, or child pornographer not only protects the defendant’s Constitutional rights, it protects the Constitution itself. Experienced defense lawyers look for defects in the government’s case violating a person’s rights and allowing unreliable evidence into the case. Did the defendant have an attorney at all critical stages? Were all searches and investigations legally performed? Was the arrest Constitutional? Was a confession voluntary and informed? Was there entrapment? These protections are not loopholes through which guilty defendants might slip. They are fundamental protections built into our justice system that help ensure the fairness of a prosecution and the validity of a verdict.
People accused of child sex abuse are in particular need of these protections. Despite the Constitution’s declaration that they are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, in reality they are presumed by almost everyone to be guilty, even before the evidence is known. Friends stop calling. Family members keep their distance. Employers downsize them. Customers go elsewhere. Once a person is charged with a sex crime, his life will never be the same, even if no evidence is ever produced. No other crimes are like this.
Representing alleged sex offenders is a defense attorney’s special challenge. A Megan’s Law defendant may have committed reprehensible acts. Perhaps he didn’t. The prosecution will work hard to prove that he did. The defense will scrutinize and analyze that proof. We will present it in the light most favorable to our client. We will voice his every defense. But defense lawyers do not judge defendants. Juries do that. We just ensure that the Constitution continues to work… Our pleasure.