Understanding legal procedures such as appeals and post-conviction remedies can be overwhelming and complex, especially when you or a loved one are involved.
Why Did You Choose To Practice Criminal Law In Missouri?
Prior to law school, I worked as a secretary at a law firm. The lawyers at the firm practiced personal injury law, and I was very interested in the work that they were doing. A few of them even suggested that I go to law school. In a way, I took that suggestion blindly; other than what I’d learned from these lawyers, I really had no idea what to expect. During the very first semester of law school at Washington University here in St. Louis, I took a course on criminal law and criminal procedure. I instantly fell in love; the stories and constitutional issues were wonderful, and I really enjoyed how people-oriented it was.
I have found that, over the years, I have represented folks charged with the same or similar crimes over and over again, yet each case is different. That’s something that I really enjoy. I learn a lot about people, which is fabulous. I am elbow-deep in the Constitution every day, which I find to be really inspiring and interesting. In addition, I learn about all kinds of things, such as forensic science, evidentiary and legal issues and the types of jobs that my clients have. I’ve never wanted to do anything else, and I haven’t stopped since I started. It’s a great field of practice.
What Are The Common Types Of Criminal Cases That Your Firm Typically Handles?
The types of cases that we handle depend on the jurisdiction and the time of the society. When I was at the federal defender’s office from 1991 to 2001, about 60% of our cases involved drugs, to begin with, specifically, crack cocaine. After that, methamphetamine-related cases became prevalent, followed by cases involving heroin. Most of the crimes that I handled were either drug crimes or gun crimes, or both. We also handled some fraud cases – mostly social security fraud or housing fraud.
In the last ten years or so, a lot of the folks I represent have been charged with possession of child pornography. That type of crime has become extremely popular because everybody has a laptop now and the internet is so incredibly accessible. These types of cases are extremely inflammatory, very easy for prosecutors to get behind, and very difficult to defend because the images and overall content is often very shocking to people. However, I defend a lot of these cases. I have found that cases like these are actually the most important for a number of reasons. The more shocking the content of the material, the easier it is to “lock him up and throw away the key.” The constitution be damned. But, once these cases begin to be treated as though the punishment is more important than the proof, we find ourselves in a terrible downward spiral towards really bad legal precedent.
We still get a lot of gun related cases involving felons in possession of or using/carrying a firearm during and in relation to a serious drug trafficking offense, which is a federal charge. The state of Missouri has recently made it against the law to be a felon in possession of a weapon, so we’re seeing more of these kinds of cases prosecuted in the state courts. We see a pretty good deal of fraud cases, especially in federal courts. We also handle driving while intoxicated cases, which are actually really interesting because of the forensic issues that are involved. A DUI case entails a civil and a criminal case. The civil case involves the Department of Revenue’s decision regarding whether or not to suspend the driver’s license, which will depend on the circumstances of the particular case. The criminal case involves the actual charge of driving while intoxicated, which is a totally separate matter that is handled in a separate court.
Those are the main areas in which I practice. With that said, I am not disinclined to represent people who have been charged with different types of crimes, because – in many cases — it’s relatively easy to pick up on the specific elements of any crime and determine the necessary proof. The framework for any crime comes down to determining what evidence is sufficient for a jury to support a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt. Once you get that down, the Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment concepts don’t change. As a result, the constitutional and evidentiary issues repeat themselves over and over. I am always willing to talk to somebody about any kind of crime, but the four that I mentioned are my primary areas of focus.
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