My Role in Any Criminal Case
By Ariel Rief, Esq.
There's often at least two sides to every story. My first role is to tell your side. And not just regarding the facts of your case to support a legal defense; I also, at the same time, tell the story of who you are as a person. Whether you're guilty or not, there are steps to take to show a judge and prosecuting DA why you deserve a chance instead of a harsh punishment—and to do it in a way that's succinct and reasonable for DAs, judges, and (if necessary) juries.
Second, my role is to expose the weaknesses or issues in the prosecuting DA's evidence against you. Remember in this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution alone has the burden to prove that you are guilty of the charges they accuse you of committing. It's important to understand the distinction that you don't have to prove that you're innocent; they have to prove that you're guilty. In fact, you don't have to prove anything.
When it comes to proof, the grounds for an officer to arrest or issue a citation to someone is NOT the same as the grounds needed to convict that person of a crime in court. Police only need "probable cause" to arrest or cite you—in other words, evidence that just shows you're probably guilty. But that's not enough (or at least shouldn't be) to convict you in court. Instead, the prosecution needs to show a jury enough credible evidence against you to prove each element of each charge "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is a significantly higher burden of proof for the government.
Remember, legally speaking, you're only guilty if, before trial, you plead (or admit) that you're guilty or, at the conclusion of a trial, you're found to be guilty. In a jury trial, that means 12 strangers have to unanimously (meaning all 12) vote to convict you. If JUST ONE juror has a doubt about any element within any charged offense, then so long as that doubt is not outlandishly unreasonable, that means you cannot be convicted of that charge.
Third, even if you're convicted of something, the fight doesn't end there. I next advocate against any unjustified jail time, seek alternative rehabilitative solutions, and ultimately seek to minimize the terms of any punishment you may face.
Finally, my role throughout any case is to keep you well-informed so that you're not alone in this process. My goal is always to make everything as understandable and the least intimidating as possible for my client and to provide the most valuable legal and pragmatic guidance to produce the best result possible in your case. You're likely going to be confronted with a difficult decision to make (for example, should you take a specific deal or should you take your chances at trial?) and you'll need someone to trust who will help you make the decision that's right for you.