When people find out I’m a lawyer, they usually ask me what kind of law I practice. When I tell them I’m a criminal defense lawyer, it is interesting to watch their response. Some don’t have a clue what that means. Others picture the criminal lawyers in the movies doing unethical and illegal things to get their clients off. Some will ask why criminal law?

As a young lawyer fresh out of law school in 1996 I went to work for the Fort Worth District Attorney’s office as an Assistant District Attorney. I had already spent three years as an intern for the District Attorney’s office while I was in law school.

I spent the next four years as a prosecutor and was able to handle hundreds of cases and learn how the criminal law worked. As a young intern and young prosecutor, I believed the best way to help society was to put the “criminals” away and hold people accountable for their actions. This is certainly a common mindset of young prosecutors and even some seasoned prosecutors. It’s also an important and vital role for the protection of society.

But it didn’t take long to see sloppy police work and cases sitting on my desk where I did not believe the person was guilty of any crime. I also learned how easily someone could be arrested, charged, and convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. And probably most importantly, I learned that most of the defendants were good people who made a bad choice or mistake and deserved a second chance.

Eventually, I left the DA’s office and have been practicing criminal defense for over 15 years now, and I’m passionate about it. I can’t imagine practicing any other kind of law. Good criminal lawyers realize they aren’t just defending individual people; they are defending all of our constitutional rights -yours and mine.

In our country, we have well-defined laws that are required to be followed. (We won’t discuss the merit of each law and whether or not we have dumb laws on the books. That is another topic for another day.) We have government agencies (police, prosecutors, investigators, etc.) that are given the task of making sure we are following these laws. However, we also have laws and procedures that the government agencies are required to follow in their quest to pursue “the bad guy” so that they don’t run roughshod over everyone and their rights.

The key to the system working properly is there has to be someone or something to hold our government agencies in check. For example, they cannot decide to go around searching everyone’s house for drugs just because they want to – without any just cause to do so. This might yield to a lot of arrests, but in the process, they have completely trampled on our Fourth Amendment rights.

The Fourth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires a warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. Our government does not have unbridled authority to intrude on our personal property. I do not want the government to start frequently busting into my house and snooping around just because they want to.

As a criminal defense attorney, I am part of the system that can hold the government in check. If I have a client arrested for possessing drugs, one of my first questions would be whether or not the police found the drugs legally. Was it a legal search and seizure? If not, the government has violated the Fourth Amendment, and they may not get to proceed with their criminal case against my client. They have to play by the rules, or they don’t get to play.

Another reason I chose to be a criminal defense attorney is that we are all people – and people make mistakes and deserve second chances. I have dedicated my professional life to defending those accused of some kind of criminal offense. I am passionate about putting my clients in a position to turn their life around and not have a criminal record follow them throughout their life. I believe that my experience and the respect I’ve earned in the criminal law community give my clients an advantage. I work hard for every client and look at each case individually.

I honestly can’t imagine practicing any other kind of law besides criminal law. I believe God gives us gifts, talents, and abilities that we should use to help other people. It is a joy to see clients move on from a mistake or find relief from a situation where they were wrongly accused or made a poor decision and have a positive impact on others in life.

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