What do white collar criminal defendants have in common with their more pedestrian counterparts on the mean streets of any major city? And why do so many criminal defense attorneys seem to limit their practices to one set of clients or the other? Temperament, personality, and access may be simple explanations, but the bottom line is that both types of cases have more in common than most people recognize and appreciate.
The commonality lies in the fact that almost every crime has two components: the act itself and the intent to commit the act. Every criminal act is composed of individual elements, and to those elements an appropriate intent must be assigned and proven.
Whether a simple crime of violence or a complicated financial fraud, every criminal defense lawyer looks first to the elements of the charge, and every analysis involves breaking down the charges into what may be conceded and what needs to be challenged. Sometimes the act, or a portion of it, may not be at issue, and the defense revolves around the alleged intent. At other times, the act itself is denied by the accused, and therefore the intent of the actor plays no role. And finally, there are times in which there is a viable defense to the act only if the intent to commit it exists, such as a claim of self-defense.
Accordingly, whether the charge pertains to a white collar crime or a street crime, only an experienced attorney can zealously defend the rights of the accused. By and through that experience, trial counsel knows to check the statutes pertaining to the alleged offense, pore over the incident or police reports, interview whatever witnesses may be available, investigate and find those that may not be available, and communicate constantly with the client, so as so get as much feedback as possible at every stage of the process.
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