Why do we only accept criminal defense cases?
If you are charged with a crime in SC, why would you want to look for an attorney who only accepts criminal defense cases?
For many people who do not have experience with the criminal courts, “a lawyer is a lawyer,” and they will begin their search for a criminal defense attorney by searching for “lawyer” or “attorney” in their geographic area, or by asking for recommendations from friends or family who may have only used divorce attorneys or car wreck lawyers in the past.
The thing is, you can retain any kind of lawyer you want to represent you on your criminal charges. But why would you even consider retaining a divorce lawyer to help you with criminal charges when your freedom and future may be on the line?
Why We Only Accept Criminal Defense Cases
We only accept criminal defense cases in SC – mostly in the Myrtle Beach and Columbia, SC areas, but we may accept select cases in other parts of the state as well.
Why aren’t we taking cases in divorce court or raking in the cash from auto accident settlements? Why do we subject ourselves to the daily grind of trying to protect ordinary people from a government that wants to crush and destroy them? A government that sometimes gets confused and thinks it would like to crush and destroy their attorneys as well?
I rethink it often, but we are still here, and we are still only accepting criminal defense cases because that is what we do. And if we don’t, who will?
In law school, there was an insurance law adjunct professor who advised his students to get a job as a public defender “for the trial experience,” but not to stay longer than a year before moving on to a corporate firm.
Because if you stay too long, you will get branded as a “cause lawyer,” and big firms may not want to hire you after that…
It dawned on me that not every person who goes to law school does it because they care about people, society, justice, or anything other than money. If you are a practicing attorney, and you do not have a cause, isn’t that a selfish waste of your skills, time, and talent?
I suppose we are “cause lawyers” who would never get hired by a big corporate firm (according to that professor), and that is why we only accept criminal defense cases…
It is What We Enjoy Doing (Most of the Time)
It is true that “there is never a dull moment” at our office, and we like it that way. I can’t imagine spending my days drafting contracts, negotiating business deals, or just… moving money around.
A corporate attorney once told me his job primarily consisted of moving money from one place to another and taking a chunk of it in the process – if your primary motivation is money, that might be a great gig to have.
We Represent Real People
It’s important to us that we only represent people. We don’t represent the government, and we don’t represent corporations. We represent real people who need help, usually against the government or corporations that are trying to hurt them.
We are on the Front Line in the War to Protect Democracy and Civil Rights
Most people probably do not realize how fragile our democracy is – or that the front lines are in our nation’s criminal courts.
Many law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and legislators would like to be able to summarily convict and punish people who are accused of crimes, and see the Constitution as a hindrance. The phrase “use it or lose it” very much applies to criminal defense and our constitutional rights – we are gradually losing those rights, and it is very much possible that you will wake up in an autocracy one day where citizens no longer have rights against government intrusion.
Whether you realize it or not, every day public defenders, criminal defense lawyers, and civil rights attorneys are in the trenches fighting for your rights and freedoms.
Why You May Want an Attorney Who Only Practices Criminal Defense
It seems silly to me that we would need to explain why, if a person is charged with a crime, they might want to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent them…
Nevertheless, it’s a fact that many people think that “a lawyer is a lawyer is a lawyer,” and, if you have a law degree, you are qualified to handle any kind of “law case.” I’ve had clients (or friends and family) ask me questions about probate or real estate law, and, when I reply that I’m a criminal defense lawyer and I don’t really have experience handling those cases, their response is, “but you’re a lawyer, right?”
A lawyer is not a lawyer is not a lawyer. There are many different areas of law, and there are some attorneys who dabble in many areas of the law, but there is no attorney who is proficient and experienced in all areas of the law. As a criminal defense attorney, for example, I would not accept your patent law case.
I could learn patent law, read books, read statutes, read case law, ask advice from patent lawyers, and maybe get the right result in your case, but why wouldn’t you just hire a patent lawyer who knows what they’re doing instead?
Criminal defense lawyers spend a lot of time in the courtroom – more than any other type of attorney I suspect. We aren’t necessarily trying cases to juries back-to-back (although sometimes we are), but a criminal defense attorney quickly learns their way around the courthouses because much of our day consists of going to:
- Bond hearings,
- Motion hearings,
- Preliminary hearings,
- Roll calls,
- Roster meetings,
- Clerk’s offices,
- Solicitor’s offices,
- Police departments, and
Apart from legal research and complex motions or briefs, much of the office’s paperwork is done by paralegals as a busy criminal defense attorney bounces from courthouse to courthouse putting out fires and arguing on behalf of their clients.
Other types of attorneys try cases, and there are a few who try a lot of cases. Criminal defendants, however, have a constitutional right to a trial by jury and proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the allegations against them – if a criminal defendant wants a trial, they will get a trial.
Because of this, and because of the stakes in many criminal cases (and unreasonable plea offers from prosecutors), criminal defense lawyers tend to try more cases a year than any other type of attorney, and that is the kind of experience that you need if you are charged with a crime.
Familiarity with Local Prosecutors and Law Enforcement
Because criminal defense lawyers handle only criminal defense cases, every case every day involves contact with police officers, prosecutors, and judges.
Attorneys who only accept criminal defense cases know your prosecutor, and probably know the officer or detective who charged you. They know the jail where you are being held, the courtroom where the judge will set your bond, and the courthouse where your trial will be held. They have probably tried cases in that very courtroom more than once.
This doesn’t mean your criminal defense lawyer is friends with your prosecutor, the cop who arrested you, or the judge who will decide your fate, but, if your attorney is a zealous but ethical advocate for their clients, the prosecutor, cop, and judge will know your attorney, they will know how hard they work, they will know that your attorney is not afraid to pick a jury, and they will know that your attorney is not going to lie down and let anyone take advantage of their clients.
Why Most Attorneys will not Limit Themselves to Criminal Defense
Attorneys who only accept criminal defense cases are rare, although there are a few in South Carolina.
For one thing, criminal defense is not where the money’s at. If you are an attorney who wants to make a lot of money, you are probably not focusing on criminal defense in SC.
Many attorneys will accept criminal defense cases and advertise for criminal defense cases because they don’t want to lose the potential client who may walk through their door with cash in hand.
For the same reason, they will not limit themselves to criminal defense cases only because they don’t want to lose the divorce client who walks through their door with cash in hand or the car crash victim who just might make the attorney rich with a big verdict or settlement…
If criminal defense practice is only about money, it may also be about pleading as many cases and closing as many files as possible – attorneys almost always lose money on criminal defense trials, but guilty pleas can be a quick buck…
Some incredibly talented attorneys in SC accept both criminal defense cases and other types of cases – I’m not knocking them, and they know who they are.
That said, if you are charged with a crime, would you rather have an attorney representing you who practices criminal defense all day every day, or an attorney who spends most of their time working on divorces or auto accident cases?
Criminal Defense Lawyers in Columbia, SC, and Myrtle Beach, SC
The criminal defense attorneys at the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm focus exclusively on criminal defense cases in SC. We have obtained dismissals, pre-trial diversion resulting in dismissals, or acquittals following trial in hundreds of criminal cases, and we have a record of proven results.
If you have been charged with a crime in SC or if you think you may be under investigation, call us now at 843-444-6122 or contact us through our website for a free initial consultation to find out if we can help.