Law Offices of Jeffrey W. Jensen 735 W. Wisconsin Ave., Twelfth Floor Milwaukee, WI 53233
414.671.9484 Jeffrey W. Jensen is a criminal defense lawyer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is also a criminal appeals lawyer in Wisconsin.
How can you defend the criminals? And why you should care that we do.
Every criminal defense lawyer has had a similar experience.
We had recently moved into our new house when the neighbor lady knocked on the door to welcome us to the neighborhood. She, of course, asked me what I do, and so I told her. A thinly-veiled expression of sincere revulsion came over her face, and she asked, "Oh, you defend the criminals?" She was not trying to be rude.
The problem that we criminal defense lawyers face is a problem of visibility. We rarely get an opportunity to explain in depth the critical importance of the role we play; and why you should care that we do it well. There are many firmly-held misconceptions about the criminal defense bar. About the only time that a person in the general public has any positive regard for a criminal defense lawyer is when he or she is facing criminal charges.
These misconceptions run across the political spectrum. The radio talk personalities who describe themselves as conservatives will frequently prattle on about small government and deregulation but, then, in the next breath, they pride themselves on their "law and order" stance, and their support for the men and women in blue.
They are apparently oblivious to the irreconcilable inconsistency in their philosphy. The government is the entity that reserves unto intself a monopoly on the use of violence to achieve its objectives. Similarly, the only means by which a totalitarian government is able to control its people is by use of the criminal law. Not surpisingly, then, when a government takes a turn toward totalitarianism, the first step is to criminalize behavior that the government deems to be repugnant to the government's objectives; and to then use violence against those who engage in that behavior. We see a rather benign example of this in the Affordable Care Act, where the government has imposed a "penalty" (now deemed to be a tax by the Supreme Court) on those who refuse to purchase health insurance. But this is a slippery slope.
Thus, the conservative philosophy, with its lap-dog loyalty to "law and order", and its reflexive support for the police and long prison sentences-- almost under any circumstance-- will lead us inexorably down the path toward that which they claim to abhor: a large and restrictive government.
The so-called "progessives" are no better on this point. Although their rhetoric is clothed in the language of civil rights and regard for the well-being of the common man, progressive policies feed the government's insatiable need to orchestrate every aspect of life in this country. Unlike the conservatives, the progressives claim to detest the use of violence by the government against the people, especially when this violence appears to be applied in a discriminatory manner. However, the progressives contribute to the problem by growing, in an almost exponential manner, the various objectives of the government. They are apparently oblivious to the fact the more "objectives" that the government pursues, the more opportunity there is for the government to give in to the temptation to use violence in pursuing those objectives. The problem with state-sponsored socialism, for example, is not that it has an evil motive. The problem is that the government must control prices and the means of production, and the only means by which to do this is by government coercion.
So there is the problem. When the conservatives are in control, they expand the ability of the government to pursue its objectives by use of the criminal law. When the progessives are in control, they multiply the government's objectives. Unless we are vigilant in the protection of our liberty, these two public policy approaches will eventually dove-tail into a repressive government.
This is where the criminal defense lawyers come into the picture. We do what we can to hamstring the government's ability to leverage its monopoly on the use of violence and coercion against its citizens. When we go to court we do not argue that murder is not such a bad crime. We argue that the Fourth Amendment proscription against warrantless searches and seizures be enforced against the police. We argue that the Fifth Amendment requirement of due process of law be scrupulously adhered to, even in the case where the media and public have already tried and convicted the defendant. In a nutshell, we demand that the government follow the law in their use of violence against alleged lawbreakers.
In a very real sense, then, it is the defense lawyer that protects the people, not the prosecutor. We protect the people from the stealthy accretion of power by the government.