People ask me all the time, “Why did you quit being a civil prosecutor and start working for defendants?” “Isn’t it hard to defend people charged with crimes?”
Well, here is my answer. Before devoting my legal career to being a exclusively a criminal defense attorney, I used to work for the State of Florida as a Department of Children and Families (DCF) prosecutor of child abuse, child neglect, and child abandonment cases in Okaloosa County. In those days, I saw just about every type of allegation and situation; from medical neglect or failure to protect from harm–to physical and sexual abuse.
In cases where it was clear that the child’s health and welfare were in danger, some type of legal intervention was necessary, either criminal or civil, in dealing with the parents or guardians. But there were a handful of cases in which it was not so clear whether or not the child’s caregivers were guilty of a crime, or just victims of circumstance.
Unfortunately, we live in a legal (and political) world that is biased toward prosecution, where imposing judgments on others is not only common practice, it’s become human nature. All you need to do is turn on the evening news or read the local newspaper. For example, I have seen parents lose their children for testing positive for drugs, with the kids placed in shelter or foster care, then told to work a case plan to get their children back; but if they fail, not only to they not get their children back—they go to jail for contempt. Sorry, but every expert will tell you, drug rehabilitation does not work that way. It is through positive reinforcement coupled with situational and circumstantial life-changes.
In Florida, the system has abandoned the rehabilitative and helpful model of influence to a more punitive one. Maybe it is easier for the judicial system to brand someone a felon and restrict their ability to improve themselves and their family, instead of lending a helping hand. I am sure someday that ideological mindset will change, but we are still years away from any real progress.
In the end, that is what led me to leave the prosecutorial side of the justice system. I refused to wear the political blinders, and opted for a purer calling, to simply focus on the client accused–to protect them; using my former experience as a guide, and the U.S. Constitution as a shield.