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  • Brian Foley

Independence Day and the role of the Criminal Defense Attorney

Independence Day is celebrated across the United States of America because it was the day that we officially declared our Independence from England in 1776. The founders of our country believed in a limited government that was subject to the consent of those governed by it. They defended natural rights given to man by God in this document and pledged their lives and sacred honor upon their signature.

Thomas Jefferson mentioned the right to a jury trial in criminal cases specifically in his list of offenses by the king. " . . . For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury . . ."

He more famously wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

In todays society, the criminal defense attorney most directly fights for and protects these rights.

The founders believed in the importance of every person's right to a fair trial. John Adams famously was the criminal defense attorney for three British soldiers accused at the Boston Massacre. He did so even though many people he agreed with believed these soldiers were the worst war criminals imaginable and were enforcing orders for a tyrannical king. Why did he do it?

John Adams knew that unless a jury of your peers finds evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of a criminal offense the State must not be allowed to exert its will and power over you. If they could, we would have a Tyrannical kingship rather than a republic. The very foundation of our county and society rests on the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects. That is the language of the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution and it is the principle that criminal defense lawyers fight for every day in court.

Independence Day is a day for celebration and reverence for the rights of free men. Those freedoms are secured each day by our military from threats abroad, and by an army of criminal defense attorneys from the ever present threat that the government we revere and support today will turn into a tyrannical force exerting its will against its own people tomorrow.


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