There Ought to Be a Law

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Whenever a small child doesn’t get its way, it may cry or throw a tantrum, because that is all it knows. Whenever society doesn’t like anything it often reacts with similar unconsciousness by declaring, “There ought to be a law.”

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in rule by law. However, I also know that laws don’t solve every problem or social ill. Those who believe they will have been overzealous of late, particularly when it comes to imposing law over the judicial system.

Legislating Justice

After a couple centuries, when our justice system hadn’t eliminated all crime in the US, the various legislative bodies decided to take matters into their own hands. Year after year, new laws are passed that make it more difficult to achieve justice or extend mercy.

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Looking down at a stupid and scared 21-year-old kid, a judge can no longer hand down a sentence in the best interest of the defendant or society—a mandatory sentence of ten years may be the judge’s only option for certain crimes. The law makes sure the judge, despite how he or she feels about the situation, does society’s bidding.

Mandatory sentencing is only the tip of the iceberg though. In an effort to curb certain crimes that society deems particularly reprehensible, laws and allowances are created that invade privacy, bypass the 5th Amendment, and allow for (what was once) illegal search and seizure. Even though countless Americans died for those rights, many feel it is okay to bypass them in order to protect society from a crime that might make them cry.

What about the innocent?

With the overriding goal to curb crime and establish order, many laws that protect the accused have been circumvented in an effort to close the “loopholes.” (What I would call a right is now being called a loophole.)

Even though new regulations and laws make it easier for the innocent to be found guilty, society seems willing to throw the innocent under the bus—not because society is heartless but because it actually believes that after being arrested and charged they are probably guilty.

Who are the good guys?

Over the last several decades, in news reports and popular media, defense attorneys are often portrayed as someone who manipulates the system to free the guilty. In movies, this usually means that law enforcement has to step up their game until they shoot and kill the bad guy, catching him or her in the act, of course.

But who are you going to turn to, and what kind of laws do you want to be in force when you get a tearful call from your son in college saying he has been wrongfully accused of a serious crime? You will probably be shocked when your son’s life is on the line who you will perceive as wearing the black hat. If you are close enough to your son to know without reservation that he is telling the truth you will be quickly frustrated at how the laws have slowly but surely been stacking up against the accused.

The law will prevail

Even though society may see me as the guy wearing the black hat, my clients know where I stand. As a defense attorney, I don’t see black hats or white, I see the law. If you don’t agree with the dismissal I obtained for my client, that’s your opinion. In the hypothetical situation that my client may have been culpable, it is the fault of the police and the prosecution.

The prosecution can’t convict my client on a hunch, on shoddy evidence, or even because he looks guilty. They must obey the law and do their job. By making sure they do, I am doing my part to protect society from indiscriminate accusations and charges. I am also helping to make sure the prosecution and the police do their job better, so when they do arrest someone for a crime, justice might be served.

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Copyright 2012 - 2013 Elliot Savitz. All rights reserved.