Stacey M. Washington, Attorney and CounselorAttorney and Counselor
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How Can You Defend Criminals?

I've been asked to explain how I can handle defending "criminals" who, in some cases, have harmed and/or endangered the lives of others. How can you ask a judge to "go easy" on someone when there's a chance that the person will repeat the crime or do something worse later?

Some attorneys immediately cite the U.S. Constitution as justification for criminal defense work. Everyone has the constitutional right to legal representation. I agree.

First of all, I don't judge or assume my clients are guilty. But, my primary concern is whether I can help someone. Everyone makes mistakes. There may be underlying, treatable problems that caused the aberrational behavior.

Many of my clients are under a lot of stress. Today's economy is enough to stress out the family dog. People are worried about the lack of job security. Divorce is everywhere. Homes are being lost to foreclosure. Kids are not only immature but some are worried about making the grades and still having friends.

Ann Arbor has recently suffered a rash of sexual assaults on females. People talk of arming themselves and taking back the streets. People are scared and not necessarily thinking rationally. Not necessarily taking the time to learn proper firearm safety and obtaining a proper permit. They forget that the justice system is there to protect their rights when they illegally discharge a firearm in the city as well as to protect the rights of the person committing the unfortunate sexual assaults.

I think my job as an attorney is to treat each client as an individual with unique circumstances. Maybe he or she needs to be nudged to seek out talk therapy or substance abuse treatment to deal with the underlying problems and stress that led to criminal behavior. Jail may or may not be the appropriate solution to preventing future bad behavior. I, like most judges, try to find the solution that will most help everybody involved and is most appropriate for my unique, individual client.

Always consult with a qualified, criminal defense attorney about the specific facts of your case.

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