Difference between being a DA versus a Defense Attorney

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Here's an inside perspective from someone who's worked with both sides of the Criminal Justice System.

The Criminal Justice System is a balance between sides- the prosecution and the defense. Here’s a look from someone who has seen both sides first hand:

Q: WHY BECOME A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER AFTER BEING A DISTRICT ATTORNEY?

A: I made the decision to come and be a defense attorney for a number of reasons. One of which was, as a district attorney, I saw so many people who I couldn’t help the way that I wanted to help them. What I mean is that often times, the district attorneys, while they’re very good attorneys, and they’re trained to do their jobs, they’re also trained to see people who come in as criminal defendants rather than seeing them as people. What I really like about being a criminal defense lawyer, is that my job is to get to know my client as a person and as a human being, and then convey that person that I know to the justice system – to the judge, to the district attorney – and let them know, “Hey, this is just a normal person who had a bad day. This is just someone who screwed up one time, but it doesn’t mean that they are a screw up.” A lot of what I do is I make people more approachable for the criminal justice system. When you’re a district attorney, you have a lot of cases, you have very little time to work on things. But as a defense attorney, I actually am able to sit down, and talk with my clients. I talk with my clients direct, I work with you. And a lot of my clients and I are friends long after I represent them.

Q: HOW ARE YOU DIFFERENT IN YOUR APPROACH FROM OTHER DEFENSE ATTORNEYS?

A: I think one thing that sets me apart from other defense attorneys here in town is that I do have that background as a district attorney. Specifically, I have a background here in El Paso county, and just like I view my clients as people, I view the district attorney as people too. I believe that everyone just needs to get to the point where you can connect with each other on a human level. What I like to do, is I like to take the fear out of things. I like to take the fear out of what the DA is trying to put my clients through. I like to take the fear out of what my clients are going through, and just lay it out for them. My job is really to act as a mediator between the criminal justice system and you – my client. It’s to help you get through your case, to make sure that you’re getting everything done that you need to, but also that you’re able to relax and breathe, and be the normal person that you are. I think one of the things that’s important for a district attorney to see is that you are a person, and you’re a normal person who just made a mistake. My job is to convey that to them.

Q: HOW DO YOU CONNECT ON A PERSONAL LEVEL WITH YOUR CLIENTS?

A: While it’s never a good thing to be in a position where you do need help, that’s what we’re here for. Our job is to get to know you, to connect with you, and get you through this time. One other thing that I absolutely love about my firm, is that we’re real people just like you. We’ve all been in a similar situation of some kind. Honestly, I personally have done more stupid things than I care to admit, but that’s what makes this whole firm work. We don’t judge you. We will sit down, treat you like a human being, and it’s not going to be a stuffy situation. You come in, you sit down in our office, and you just talk to me. I like to make it as relaxed as possible, because ultimately, while our job is to help you through this time, and to be your attorney, we’re also here to just be your friend, and help you through it.

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