I've handled cases from drug possession to first degree murder. I cannot provide legal advice to you, but I'm happy to answer any questions I can.

EDIT - 12:40 PM PACIFIC - Alright everyone, thanks for your questions, comments, arguments, etc. I really enjoyed this and I definitely learned quite a bit from it. I hope you did, too. I'll do this again in a little bit, maybe 2-3 weeks. If you have more questions, save them up for then. If it cannot wait, shoot me a prive message and I'll answer it if I can.

Thanks for participating with me!

Comments: 2595 • Responses: 79  • Date: 

MyNameIsColby487 karma

Are you a criminal defense lawyer or a "criminal" defense lawyer?

oregonlawyer624 karma

I've defended people I thought were 100% innocent who ended up being convicted, and I've defended people who I thought were 100% guilty who ended up being found not guilty, so my guess is as good as yours.

MyNameIsColby264 karma

Thanks, but that's not what I meant. I'm referring to Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad. He is a criminal defense lawyer and not a criminal defense lawyer.

oregonlawyer479 karma

Ahh, I don't watch the show, so I missed the reference. That said, from second hand experience, I can say that meth is a hell of a drug.

yepyep2763 karma

Do your clients disclose to you if they are actually guilty or not?

oregonlawyer148 karma

Generally not initially.

patefacio70 karma

My dad always told me there are two people you never lie to; your doctor, and your lawyer. I don't see what could be gained by withholding information from the person defending you in court.

oregonlawyer101 karma


fluropinknarwhal344 karma

How do you deal with cases where you yourself can see that the defence is guilty? Do you not take the job or just try to do your best?

oregonlawyer829 karma

I am in private practice, so I have some discretion over which cases I take and which I opt against taking. There are some sort of crimes that I try to stay away from -- instances where I just don't believe I can do any good.

That said, the role of a criminal defense attorney, at its core, is to be a zealous advocate for the accused. Whether they are guilty of committing the crime they're accused of committing, I believe that it is my job to ensure that they receive a fair trial and that the state actually prove every element of the crime.

I think that's the difference between "not guilty," and "innocent." I'm not ever trying to prove that my client is innocent, but rather that the state hasn't proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he's guilty.

mariox19192 karma

My understanding is that prosecutors often decide to prosecute based on whether or not they can get a conviction, irrespective of actual guilt or innocence, largely because convictions are good for their careers, and that there's even a joke among them that goes "any prosecutor can convict a guilty man..." I suspect that if an ADA was on here he or she wouldn't be getting the same hard time that people give to a defense attorney. Is there a double standard? What say you?

oregonlawyer326 karma

I think you're pretty close to accurate in your assessment, just off on the terms maybe. I have a lot of very close friends who are prosecutors, and of the, oh, maybe 100 prosecutors that I've met, perhaps two or three are people I wouldn't want to have a drink with.

I think the real "problem" is the decision as to when to plea bargain and how to go about doing it. I'm not joking you than in maybe 40-50% of my cases, my clients get a plea offer from the state that carries the absolute exact sentence that they would receive if they were convicted. In that instance, how could I possibly advise that my client accept a plea?

"Hey, Joe, I know that if you lose at trial, you'll go to prison for two years, but the state has made us this very tempting offer to allow you to plead guilty to crime X and go to prison for just two years, do you want to take it?"

I'd be literally laughed at, or fired. Or both, come to think of it.

I've won dozens of cases where the only reason I took it to trial was that I couldn't get a reasonable plea bargain.

oregonlawyer86 karma

that in*

anonymaus4271 karma

I wish I had a lawyer like you when I got myself in to a legally sticky situation a few years back. I had a PD (several over the course of the thing) though and you get what you pay for :(

oregonlawyer202 karma

Thanks for that, and I'm sorry for your circumstance.

I know plenty of really good public defenders. That said, they are all way overworked and way underpaid. They have dozens, if not hundreds of cases active at any given time, and there's absolutely no way they can have a mental handle on all of them at once.

The benefit to having a retained (paid for) attorney is that I'm going to know what's going on with your case pretty much all the time, and I'm going to give a damn 100% of the time.

anonymaus4238 karma

The first one I had was fantastic but clearly overworked. Eventually I was assigned a different PD, then a third. It was the third one that really did not give a damn about me and made it clear I was nothing but a burden to him.

oregonlawyer42 karma

Yup, that sucks on all accounts.

marcoroman3108 karma

So let's say you are in a situation where you are convinced that your client is guilty of the crime he is accused of, but you know you can get him acquitted (maybe on a technicality or because of some mistake made by the prosecution). Is this a realistic scenario? Do you/would you have a crisis of conscience?

oregonlawyer254 karma

It's absolutely a realistic scenario.

That being said, a lot of my answer to your question depends on your and my understanding of the word guilty. I, very strongly, believe that someone is not truly guilty of something until 12 (or 6 or 8 on occasion) of their peers say that they are. Every single trial I've ever had began with the judge informing the jurors that the fact that the defendant has been charged with a crime is not evidence of his guilt, and that the state must prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So, up until the point that the foreperson says "we find so and so guilty," they are, by law, presumed innocent. If you believe that, then I'm not "getting guilty people off."

In those cases where I have gotten someone acquitted or had a case dismissed because of a technicality, here's my thought process: if the client screws up again, the police will almost assuredly catch him or her again, and the client probably won't be as lucky the next time around. If the client never does it again -- think drug cases, i.e. transporting several hundred pounds of marijuana because someone paid them $400 to do it -- then there's very little harm in that person not going to prison for their "crimes."

J_Steezy559 karma

"getting guilty people off" will be the title for my new book. It's about a criminal defense attorney who has sex with his clients and nothing more

oregonlawyer291 karma

I bet that will sell like hot cakes.

AndreasTPC56 karma

Does it happen that clients tell you "I'm guilty but I think I can get away with it, so I want to try to plead not guilty.". How would you handle a case like that?

oregonlawyer72 karma

Tough ethically, but if you can do it ethically you gotta do what the client wants.

AskMeAboutMyLobotomy46 karma

That's a good attitude. I like the idea that it's not up to you to judge them innocent or guilty. Its up to the jury, and they deserve a lawyer who is just as much for them as the prosecutor is against them.

oregonlawyer35 karma


prawny331144 karma

What is the weirdest case you've ever been involved in? What's your opinion on the current criminal justice system? Do you think it could be improved?

oregonlawyer318 karma

Well, I've had some really, really weird cases. Some were weird because of the people who were involved. Some were weird because of the crime that was committed. Some were weird for other reasons.

Perhaps the weirdest case I had was a case where a guy was being investigated for hiring a prostitute, bringing her to his hotel, and watching videos of downright kinky sexual acts with her. He never actually ended up having sex with her, but he paid her four figures to spend something like six hours with him. In the end, he gave her a quantity of drugs, which is the only crime that he committed.

The result was a good one for all parties involved, but the guy was perhaps the weirdest person I've come across, and that's saying something.

As for the criminal justice system as a whole, I think it's deficient in some areas, but on the whole, it's generally effective. I think some people on the state side are too quick to be dismissive of individual liberties and believe that anyone who's arrested is in fact guilty, and I think some people on the defense side believe too strongly that the government really is out to get everyone. The truth, as is almost always the case, is somewhere in the middle.

Perhaps the saddest thing I see on a daily or near-daily basis is the lives ruined by the seemingly endless cycle of drug abuse and addiction. There are so many families who lose loved ones to prison or to a life of crime because of an addiction to drugs. I think the way we handle those individuals whose crimes stem from an addiction to a substance rather than a malicious intent could be improved and it would significantly cut down on recidivism and the ridiculous incarceration figures that exist in this country.

prawny33169 karma

Thanks for the quick response! What's your opinion on capital punishment? Do you think it has a place in the US system?

oregonlawyer233 karma

I've never had a client convicted of a crime that resulted in a sentence of death. I've had clients be sentenced to several decades in prison, but that is a far cry from death. So, I'm really, truly, only speaking from personal opinion.

If you've ever heard about the West Memphis Three, you will probably understand where I'm coming from. If not, you should google it and read up a little bit on it. It's a fascinating case study in how the criminal justice system can absolutely screw up.

I don't know how many innocent men and women have been put to death over the course of capital punishment in the United States, but I imagine that the number is greater than zero. I personally believe that putting someone who is truly innocent to death is a far worse result than letting hundreds of thousands of deplorable people who have done despicable things live out their day in prison conditions that aren't anything to write home about.

I understand why we as a society have capital punishment, but I cannot fathom being the lawyer for someone who was executed for a crime they did not commit.

Qaatux123 karma

Damien Echols (one of the West Memphis Three) actually did an AMA here on reddit about three weeks ago.


oregonlawyer108 karma

Yea, and it was awesome.

SkaterMan115 karma

i am thinking of becoming a criminal defense lawyer. What did you do during highschool and college, and whats basically needed to become one? Thanks in advance!

oregonlawyer188 karma

I studied hard throughout my education. I took a lot of honors and AP courses in high school, which got me ahead of the ball game to start college.

In college, I double majored in Economics and Political Science because both fields fascinated me. That said, you don't need to major in any one particular area to become a lawyer. I had friends in law school who were creative writing majors and theater majors. Several of my colleagues were poets or veteranarians before becoming a lawyer.

The biggest piece of advice I could offer someone in high school who thinks they want to become a lawyer is to take classes and work hard to become a great writer.

There are two ways to separate yourself as a lawyer: (1) be a great writer; and (2) be a great oral advocate.

I think it's a lot easier to become better at oral advocacy through practice and trial and error than it is to become a better writer.

As for what's needed to become a criminal defense lawyer, an undergraduate degree, then take the LSAT, then get into law school, then graduate from law school, then pass the bar, and hopefully have a job that allows you to do what you want to do!

cberra8845 karma

Did you ever par take in Speech and Debate during your school days?

oregonlawyer44 karma


cberra8832 karma

Do you think it helped you with your current career? Is it similar in the slightest?

I've always wanted to be a lawyer, just nervous on taking up that much debt. However, I enjoyed Speech and Debate and was president of my schools team senior year.

oregonlawyer39 karma

It absolutely helped.

d-nj101 karma

Have you ever used the Chewbacca defense?

oregonlawyer143 karma

Sure, but we call that sleight of hand!

marley42092 karma

This guy puts his heart on every answer he gives. I like his style, truly passionate for his job.

oregonlawyer52 karma

Thanks, I really appreciate that.

cRupeThereItIs90 karma

Do you think marijuana should be decriminalized? Also, do you feel petty arrests clog the system?

oregonlawyer149 karma

Yes. Yes. Both answers are general.

KerrickLong51 karma

You support decriminalization even though drug cases are 40% of your business? You mean you don't let your bottom line get in the way of your values? You rock. :)

oregonlawyer123 karma

If that part of my business fell out, other parts would fill in, I'm sure. Thanks for the kind words!

sidemountsam74 karma

what do you think about jury nullification?

oregonlawyer95 karma

Can be very, very effective.

flynnski36 karma

Have you ever seen it happen?

oregonlawyer52 karma


jeannaimard25 karma

Go on…

Specifically, what do you think of New-Hampshire that now “allows”* defence lawyers to mention nullification to the jury?

* I “air-quote” it because it is ludicrous that a judge could prevent the defence lawyer from mentionning nullification to the jury. If anyone ought to do that, it’s the judge in the instructions to the jury.

oregonlawyer43 karma

I think it's a step in the right direction. Laws are made by society to show what society deems wrong, if society has stopped deeming something wrong, but it's still illegal, then I should be allowed to say "you shouldn't convict him for this."

jeannaimard13 karma

I’d even go further and say that any law that was nullified more than 50% in a year should be taken off the books.

Or at least sent to judicial review, or be voted on by the legislature again.

oregonlawyer17 karma

Anything is better than nothing.

stiffy200573 karma

When you get someone at your desk for an initial consultation, do you say "All right, just give it to me straight. What happened and what did you do?" or do you say "Now my job is to simply examine the facts"?

oregonlawyer136 karma

It depends on the crime that someone is accused of, honestly.

In some cases, what's really vital for me to know is what happened immediately before or after the person was arrested -- basically looking for instances where the police might have violated this person's constitutional rights.

In other cases, it's clear that their rights weren't violated and I need to know details about what happened or didn't happen so I can assess what I'm going to face.

It helps to remember that the only facts that matter are what's known to the government. The fact that my client knows he had $100,000 of cash that the police didn't find isn't important to my representation of him. What's important is the 500 grams of methamphetamine that they caught him with -- how it got there, when he knew about it, what he knew about it, where it came from, etc.

sirdomino41 karma

So should you always be upfront with your lawyer with everything that happened, even if you're guilty? I always thought you weren't suppose to do that.

oregonlawyer67 karma

It helps me to know the facts, generally. It doesn't help me to know if you think you're guilty or not.

walden4228 karma

So if someone came to you and said, "so I did end up selling those drugs to minors, but we can make it seem like I didn't", or "yeah I killed the guy, but I did in such a way that we could easily put the blame on his wife" etc etc, do you not take the case, or continue to look at the facts that could make it seem otherwise?

oregonlawyer40 karma

It's a judgment call in every case.

TheBagman0770 karma

What laws have you come across that you think need to be repealed? Whats your take on vice or morality laws?

oregonlawyer135 karma

Good question, and one I don't think about a lot.

I think laws generally reflect the values of the society that imposes them. We don't want people breaking into our cars and stealing our stereo systems, so we make that a crime. We don't want people driving around on the street after having downed nineteen shots, so we make that a crime. In that sense, a lot of the laws out there make perfect sense.

That said, there are plenty of laws whose application end up being a far greater negative than the actions that they serve to criminalize. For instance, convicting someone of having a certain quantity of cocaine in a baggie and sending them to prison for two years for possession with intent to distribute is probably doing more harm than good. That person might have a family who you're taking them away from. That person might be the sole breadwinner for three people who depend on him. In short, the punishments for crime have consequences, and I think that there are absolutely times where the punishment for victimless crimes significantly outweighs the crime itself.

Thatguyyoupassby44 karma

But surely if its crack cocaine it must be more dangerous than powdered cocaine and warrant five times the jail sentence? ...oh wait

oregonlawyer42 karma


Viper601863 karma

Do you ever feel like you should not defend them in going to jail?

oregonlawyer227 karma


The American justice system only works when it is truly fair and impartial.

When someone is accused of a crime, there will always be a prosecutor working his or her hardest to make that person pay for their crime, whether it be through probation or prison or anywhere in between. The system breaks down if the person fighting for the accused isn't fighting back just as hard.

Xenon80859 karma

You like to say "that said" a lot. 6 times so far. That said, thanks for the AMA.

oregonlawyer142 karma

Guilty as charged, it would appear.

HereForTheBuffet55 karma

Have you ever feared the repercussions or been threatened due to losing a case for a client?

oregonlawyer216 karma


I treat all of my clients with respect and dignity and I always try to do my best. I think that comes across to them. I think the "repercussions" and "threats" tend to stem from people who think they got jobbed by the system, and I'd like to think I'm not the one jobbing them.

Perhaps my most favorite moment thus far as a lawyer was when I walked into a jail after my client was sentenced to 18 years in prison. I came to say goodbye and to wish him the best on his appeal, that I thought he would end up winning, and that I wish I had done better.

He looked me square in the eyes and said "you treated me like a human being from start to finish and you worked your ass off for me, I could never ask for anything more than that."

vetteboy38 karma

Is it commonplace for you attorneys to not handle appeals after losing a case? Or was this just a situation where he had another option. Seems strange that he would not continue with you after making that impression on him.

oregonlawyer77 karma

Two thoughts on this. Some lawyers are great trial lawyers, but terrible appellate lawyers -- think, can argue their balls off to a jury but can't write for a lick to an appellate court. In that case, you want a different lawyer for your appeal. If you have a lawyer who's great at both, then have him to both because he won't have to relearn your case on appeal.

AGTRYS48 karma

I have read a lot of material and seen a lot of shows where people just do not wait for their lawyer and just talk to the police. Do you advise against this? I have always been told to say nothing and wait for the lawyer. Advice I will heed but hope that I never have to you use. I am a social worker though and some of my clients have run ins with the police. Should I just tell them to "shut the fuck up and wait for the lawyer"?

oregonlawyer132 karma

I cannot advise you or anyone else as to what to do in their case. That said, what happens on TV in investigations is not like real life. When you ask for a lawyer in real life, the police have to stop asking you interrogative questions, i.e. those designed to elicit an incriminating response.

When you ask for a lawyer, the police will generally just transfer you from the precinct to the county jail, because there aren't "on-call" lawyers, typically.

To answer your question as directly as I can, for every one instance where I've had a client say something to police and have it help his case, I've had 99 instances where a client said something to a police and it hurt his case.

cubeofsoup186 karma

you're really good at this indirect answering...it's almost as if you are...a lawyer....

oregonlawyer93 karma


[deleted]69 karma

And Canadian, apparently.

oregonlawyer66 karma


Mr_Ect46 karma

Do you have any repeat customers?

oregonlawyer84 karma

In a word, yes.

marcoroman345 karma

What sort of cases do you tend to take? Is it mostly petty stuff like shoplifting or do you get murder, rape and those sort of things as well?

oregonlawyer106 karma

These are just ballpark figures:

~10% Domestic Violence offenses ~20% DUI offenses ~40% Drug related offenses, trafficking, possession, sales, etc. ~25% Robbery, aggravated assault, burglary type offenses ~5% Violent crimes like murder.

I have never actually tried a rape case. I have had two cases of child sexual abuse/assault cases, and the only reasons I took those cases were because I firmly believed that the child had made up the abuse, and in both of those cases, I was proven accurate.

not_a_drinker43 karma

I recognize I am being nitpicky here, but do you mean "proven accurate" as in "the defendant was found not-guilty" (which is not the same as "innocent" as you mentioned) or "the child admitted to making up the abuse during trial"?

oregonlawyer121 karma

Legitimate nitpick. I mean the latter. In one case, the child admitted making the abuse up, in the other case, the mother admitted pushing the child to make the abuse up.

Skwisgaars36 karma

Just wondering, you believed the child made up the abuse before you took the case, had you seen some evidence to support this or are you just amazingly good at reading people? I imagine you would be very good at reading people having your profession. Cheers for the AMA, really good read for someone somewhat interested in the legal system.

oregonlawyer59 karma

I had seen a good deal of evidence that led me to believe what I believed.

fick_Dich13 karma

Were you able to sue for libel?

oregonlawyer56 karma

If we had, there wouldn't have been any money to go after.

Asimoff6 karma

Rule #1: don't sue people who can't pay up.

oregonlawyer7 karma


TrippinSkott43 karma

What's your average salary for the past five years? Thanks!

oregonlawyer66 karma

Average over the last 5, probably 100k.

TrippinSkott28 karma

I watched a documentary recently, where the thesis was basically saying, don't become a lawyer, there's too many as there is. And when people pass the bar, they expect to be making $160k a year right off the bat, and when that doesn't happen, their student loans cripple them. A side thought in this documentary was also, with so many lawyers out there, scrambling for work and money, people are suing over bullshit these days, and it's getting ridiculous.

Again, these aren't my thoughts, just what I watched, and I'm on my phone, or I'd link you to the doc. Any thoughts on these ideas?

oregonlawyer80 karma

There's a lot of truth to that. The market is bad, the statistics put out by law schools are absolute bunk, and student loans suck.

thebarkingdog38 karma

I am currently in the police academy for a large US city. A defense attorney helped me sue my landlord when I was 22 years old and still in college. After hearing him talk and getting to know him, I firmly believe that criminal defense attorney's are the life blood of defending our Constitutional Rights in the criminal justice system. Not the prosecutors (Mike Nifong), not the judges (Judge Ito). I hope my experiences as a police officer don't change this. Also, I hope you know that not all of us think CDA's are bad :)

oregonlawyer47 karma

I appreciate that, and I hope you spread it to your fellow LEOs. We CDAs certainly don't think all those in law enforcement are bad.

I often tell my LEO friends that 2 bad cops can sour 100 good ones much like 2 bad lawyers can sour 100 good ones.

dreamersblues236 karma

Let's say I'm in a police station. I ask to speak to an attorney (Question 1: What exact phrase should I use to ask? What statement(s) would not work?) The cop does not stop asking questions. What should I do then?

oregonlawyer50 karma

All of the following phrases work:

"I want to speak to an attorney/lawyer."

"I'm not answering any questions until I speak to a lawyer/attorney."

The Supreme Court has basically said that the magic words are speak to an attorney.

If the cop doesn't stop asking questions, keep your mouth shut or continue to repeat your demands for an attorney. You can still provide the officer with incriminating information that could be allowed in at a trial if you gave the information voluntarily, i.e. not in response to an interrogative question.

TheBagman0736 karma

How do you keep up with new laws and case studies? How much of a lawyers work is reading briefs and case law? Have you ever been straight up outmanouvered by another lawyer to the point you couldn't be mad at losing, because it was so masterfully done? Have you ever had a case that was the epidomy of "truth is stranger than fiction?"

oregonlawyer60 karma

Lawyers are required to attend a certain number of hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) every year. Generally speaking, lawyers tend to use those CLE hours to stay fresh on their field of practice. For instance, I might opt to go to CLEs that discuss the state of the law on electronic surveillance or the use of drug detection dogs to update myself. That's a big way. Another way is through talking with other lawyers in your field about cases they've had or things they've seen or heard about.

Some lawyers read and write briefs and read through case law all day every day. Other lawyers don't ever do it. My first boss hadn't written a motion or a brief in his life. I write motions all the time, and I love studying up on new case law.

I've certainly had cases where I got hit with something that I never saw coming or had something presented in a way that I totally didn't think it would be. I've tried cases against prosecutors who I thought were absolutely fantastic people and fantastic advocates for the State. I've tried cases against prosecutors who I thought should have been fired for how badly they bungled their case.

As to your last question, in my experience, it's almost always the case that truth is at least as strange, if not stranger, than fiction.

MondoBuck32 karma

Other than telling cops your name, is it ever a good idea to say anything to the police if you're suspected of committing a crime?

oregonlawyer78 karma

I suppose if you're 100% innocent, there's little you could do to harm yourself, but it's really not worth testing that theory.

nerdwithme36 karma

Have you ever seen this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc A police chief and a Law professor talk about why you should never talk to the police.

Anything can be held against you in a court of law but it cannot help you as it would be considered hearsay.

This blows my mind

oregonlawyer38 karma

You're absolutely right and I've had that happen probably hundreds of times. Good lawyers can work around that through legal maneuvers, but it's difficult.

Lolawalrus5130 karma

Do you ever regret your decision to become a defense attorney? Don't get me wrong, thank you for what you do, everyone deserves a fair trial including a lawyer to represent them. But was there (or is there) a case that you've done where it just became to much for you and you wished you weren't a a defense attorney?

oregonlawyer98 karma

Yes and no.

There's never been a case where I felt like it was "too much" to handle, or anything like that. However, there have been plenty of instances where I felt somewhat shady after "winning."

For instance, there have been literally dozens of times where I have won motions to suppress on drug load cases where the police violated any or all of my clients' 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment rights. Generally, after winning a motion to suppress, the case goes away and the client goes free, with literally a get out of jail free card.

Sometimes, those clients use that opportunity to their benefit and they make something better of their lives. And, the fact that they don't have a felony on their records means that they can make something better of their lives.

But, in other cases, I see those same people who I won motions for right back in my office, be it six, twelve, or eighteen months later, and that's an absolute killer for my psyche.

vexion7 karma

This is my experience. I'm a third-year law student and I externed for the U.S. Attorney's Office last semester. We lost a case where the cops had nabbed a meth addict, and while they were arresting him, he voluntarily gave up his dealer. The cops failed to do any controlled buys or observations or anything, but instead got a warrant and went to the dealer's trailer. There, they found a big meth operation. But the evidence got suppressed because of a lack of PC for the search.

The guy was guilty — he had a big meth lab in his trailer and meth strewn all over the place. But he got off for a constitutional violation that really didn't go to his personal rights. The cops didn't extract a confession under duress, they didn't plant drugs on him. They just screwed up their own procedure and he got off scot-free by a fluke. It's pretty infuriating.

oregonlawyer18 karma

I can understand how that's infuriating, but pretend for a moment that you're a guy who's got nothing to hide and the cops come in and turn your place up looking for a meth lab and end up destroying tons of stuff and turning your place upside down, you'd be pretty pissed, no?

If the meth dealer keeps doing what he's doing, the cops will catch him again. They know who he is, and how he operates.

The-Tumbleweed30 karma

Be honest, is your job anything like the Ace Attorney games?

oregonlawyer30 karma

Having never played the Ace Attorney games, I cannot accurately answer this question. However, if Wikipedia is any help in enlightening me as to what the Ace Attorney games are all about, I'd say it's a little like it!

amazoniandude26 karma

I asked this in an other AMA but didnt't get much of an answer. I'm also a lawyer in Brazil, here we have jury only for intentional crimes against life, such as murder, abortion, etc. There is a huge discussion about which system is the best - single judge or jury. What are your thoughts about this? Which one do you feel the defendant gets a better trial?

oregonlawyer46 karma

I don't know that either results in a better trial, but I personally prefer the jury in all but one instance.

First, why the jury: the judge knows a lot about the case. He's read your pretrial motions, he knows the facts by and large, very little is going to come out at trial that he hasn't heard already. With a jury, literally every fact will be new to them. With a judge, some of the inadequacies of the police will probably not be as poignant, but with a jury, when I point out how crummy of a job the police did in a particular case, they latch on to that. So, if it's an issue of fact, and whether or not the state can prove my client did XYZ, I want a jury.

The one instance where I want a judge deciding my client's guilt is if the determining factor in his guilt is a matter of law, or where you'd need to interpret a specific statute to determine guilt or innocence. In that case, I want a judge making the call.

amazoniandude9 karma

Thanks for your answer. I gave up any criminal defenses, too much work for me. But, in my Ethics classes I try to pass on the spirit and morals of a good criminal defense lawyer. Follow up question: here in Brazil the exception is being in prison before found guilty, so every time our clients are in jail before trial we file a lot of habeas corpus and this is taught a lot in law school. What do you do when your client is in jail before the sentence?

oregonlawyer16 karma

Generally I try to get his conditions of release modified so that he be out. In the United States, bail is the rule rather than the exception.

notaverygoodlawyer23 karma

Which advertising methods have you found to be most useful?

oregonlawyer50 karma

I don't advertise, outside of my business cards. When I began my practice, I took mostly appointed cases -- instances where the court appointed me as someone's attorney because the public defender was conflicted off the case by a conflict of interest, i.e. multiple co-defendants.

Once I had done that for a while, I started to get a reputation as a lawyer who cared for his clients, who would stand up for what was right, and would treat everyone like human beings. Once that reputation began to make its way around, the referrals began to come in pretty steadily.

stiffy200511 karma

What is the reimbursement rate for that? Is it the same as if you billed the client personally?

oregonlawyer19 karma

Way, way less. Some counties do it hourly, some counties do it by the case on a flat fee basis.

cubeofsoup20 karma

What is the pay like? found the answer, 100K
What is the rate you bill at?
Are you still in debt from school?

oregonlawyer28 karma

100-125k, ish.

I generally bill by the case, not by the hour.

Almost out.

epochwin20 karma

  1. How much have you studied human behavior and use it to work in your favor? I have been reading on Persuasive tactics. Dr.Cialdini in one study mentions the OJ Simpson trial where the lawyer says, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" which seemed to influence the jury. Also have you noticed similar tactics being used against you by the prosecutors?
  2. Have you successfully defended foreigners who might have faced deportation for minor drug related offences?

oregonlawyer48 karma

  1. This is probably not in the same vein you're thinking, but after every single trial I have, regardless of whether I win or lose, I hang out in the hallway after the jury renders its verdict. I ask the jurors if they wouldn't mind me asking them some questions. Some would prefer I not, and they take off. Some absolutely welcome it and are happy to answer my questions.

I generally ask them what they liked about how I presented my case, what they didn't like, simple stuff like that. More directly, I ask them what they thought was missing, what they were curious about when they went into the jury room, and specific questions about the facts of my case in particular.

I cannot tell you how many times I've thought a case would hinge upon how a jury saw one or two individual facts and then have a jury tell me that "oh, we didn't care at all about things X and Y, all we cared about was what we thought about Z." It's really quite baffling at times.

My style is to generally build my defenses around a theme, and to keep that theme consistent from my opening statement, throughout my handling of witnesses, all the way through my close. When the jury agrees with my theme, or grasps it, or is convinced by some of it, etc, they tend to acquit.

Good prosecutors tend to do the exact same thing in reverse.

  1. Yes. That's an absolutely common problem in today's society, and the things that the United States government chooses to deport people for and the things they choose not to deport people for make very little sense. Doing this work is some of my favorite work.

oregonlawyer57 karma

Hmm, this formatting definitely looked better when I was typing my answer.

epochwin13 karma

Thank you for answering.

  1. Have you worked with clients accused of white collar crime? Is your approach a little different then?
  2. What's your experience with young gang members? Do they seem reluctant to give any information?

oregonlawyer24 karma

  1. Yes. A little. Generally they are more sophisticated, intellectually, so I can use them to prepare their defense probably a bit more than the "average" client. Also, their cases are usually way more complex and I often need them to decipher the evidence the state has.
  2. I don't know what you mean by "give information," honestly. Generally speaking it's not in my client's best interests to talk to police, unless there's some ridiculously nice carrot or some ridiculously heavy stick awaiting them.

Opium_War_victim19 karma

Do money play an important role in taking on a case?

oregonlawyer55 karma

Sometimes yes. More often no.

There are some cases where I legitimately know that I would lose money by taking the case if they cannot pay me a certain amount -- think cases where there are a ton of wiretaps that span several years. To listen to all of those, and to figure out what's important and what's white noise would take me and/or my staff forever and would be super-expensive. In those instances, the money is pretty important to my decision as to whether or not to take a case.

In other instances, I want to help the person I'm talking to and I'll cut my fee in order to do so.

In some rare instances, I'll feel that the person I'm talking to was wronged by someone in the system, and I'll handle their case pro bono.

It's almost always a judgment call, and I just try to do my best.

Viper601817 karma

What job would you have probably taken instead of a criminal defence lawyer?

oregonlawyer37 karma

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a lawyer. The law, and everything that it stands for has always been appealing to me.

When I first started law school, I didn't think I'd end up as a criminal defense lawyer. I actually figured myself for more of the business law or tax law sort of guy, but as I had the opportunity to work with people who needed my help more than they needed practically anything else, it became an invigorating profession that I fell in love with it.

Short answer: if I wasn't a criminal defense lawyer, I'd be some other kind of lawyer.

ShinjukuAce12 karma

I am a plaintiff-side civil rights lawyer, and I've seen a lot of the aftermath of injustices in criminal cases. People plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit, because they fear a much longer sentence if they go to trial, and they figure that if the grand jury believed the state, a trial jury will too. Some people are like "I can do two years, I can't do ten years." Public defenders are often inexperienced and overworked, and can't represent people effectively. And large amounts of police, court, and prison resources are wasted on victimless crimes like prostitution, underage drinking, and non-violent drug offenses. What do you think we need to do to improve the legal system?

oregonlawyer20 karma

Decriminalizing simple drug offenses would do a lot to take the burden off of public defenders and allow them to do their jobs more effectively. That's probably the easiest and quickest fix. Would it be the best? I don't know, I guess that's up to the individual.

m1ss1l312 karma

Something I have always wondered, Do clients usually tell you if they have committed a crime ? Do you ask them ?

Do you have any problem if they admit to you that they have committed the crime but what to be defended ?

oregonlawyer21 karma

Generally speaking they do not, and I do not ask. If they admit what they've done, ethical issues may arise with how I present the case and whether or not I can actually defend them.

MissSteenie11 karma

Do you watch Suits? What do you think of Harvey?

oregonlawyer7 karma

I don't.

DagMT10 karma

Have you ever had a case where you had concrete evidence (or were completely convinced) that your client was innocent and they were still convicted?

oregonlawyer18 karma

No. I've had cases where I legitimately thought my client was innocent and he was convicted, but never with definitive proof of his innocence.

Jitte10 karma

Why make an AMA in the middle of the night? ;)

Also would you defend a person that's done something so horrible the whole court session would be on the news every day? There's a guy in Holland (Moskowicz) who always defends the big guys and has become a prominent figure in the media himself. Would you want that kind of attention?

oregonlawyer14 karma

I was done writing a motion and couldn't sleep because I was so amped up about the case. As for your second question, there's some pros and cons to being that sort of attorney. The money wouldn't be bad, but being constantly vilified would suck.

Rolltop9 karma

What's the worst transgression of justice you've ever been party to?

oregonlawyer15 karma

Had a woman who I knew couldn't possibly identify my client identify my client as the guilty party because the prosecutor met with her in his office and showed her pictures of my client. It was awful. Judge wouldn't budge on my requests for a mistrial.

ShotToShreds9 karma

If you had to do it all over again, would you? As in, law school, the bar, etc?

(Context- It's my junior year of college and I'll be taking the LSAT soon.)

oregonlawyer25 karma

That's a very, very legitimate question, and I'm not sure I would.

On days like today, 100% yes. On other days, 100% no.

Take the LSAT, keep exploring, but take a year or two off before law school and work in some segment of the legal field to see if it's your passion that you want to pursue.

puregenius9 karma

Are judges more lenient on defendant with a "good" lawyer. Let's say I defend myself, but I say and do the same things you would do on my behalf. Would the outcome be the same?

oregonlawyer23 karma

Judges can be convinced by compelling arguments made by good lawyers. Judges rarely decide whether or not you're guilty, but they decide what evidence can and cannot be presented against you at trial. Having a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the law and can present a compelling argument on your behalf would never, ever hurt.

George4REALZ9 karma

Is it true that the lawyer market is awful and they are paid like crap? It seems like a great job, but I have been told otherwise

oregonlawyer15 karma

Yes. The legal job market sucks right now.

karadan1008 karma

Is there a high instance of burnout in your profession, specifically defence lawyers?

oregonlawyer8 karma

Yes. Absolutely.

Al_Bagel7 karma

I am currently in law school and working at an internship at a public defender's office (state appellate division). Just submitted a brief on behalf of my first client!

What do you think the major differences are between private criminal defense/prosecution and public criminal defense/prosecution?

oregonlawyer9 karma

I may have 20-30 active cases at any one time. A public defender may have 150. Who are you going to get better attentiveness from on your specific case?

Me, and it's not because I'm a better person, or a better lawyer, or that I care about you more. At least not generally. It's because I have time and the PD does not.

ThatGuyWhoHasAName7 karma

when you take on a client who you think is guilty what are your thoughts behind taking him as a client?

oregonlawyer22 karma

The thought of whether a client is guilty or innocent generally doesn't enter my mind anywhere near the time I decide to take him on as a client.

My first thoughts are what is this person struggling with, what can I do to help them, and am I the right person to help them.

Phonda7 karma

During the course of the trial, do you get a feel for how the jury is going to swing? Or is it always a surprise?

oregonlawyer11 karma

Yes, I can generally predict how a jury is going to go. I'd say I'm right 80-85% of the time, maybe more.

plurette7 karma

I used to think criminal defense lawyers were, well, not great people. However after this past year I had a dealings with a murder trial (witness), and now I understand what you really do not just for the accused but for the rest of us. Ensuring that the accused gets the best and fair trial possible ensures that if they are in fact found guilty there is less room for appeal.

So for all that you do, thank you!

oregonlawyer7 karma

You bet, and I'm glad you see both sides of the coin. Thanks for your kind words.