As I stood in the Civil Rights section of the American History Museum in Washington DC a few weeks ago, I was struck by the truth and power of this quote. While the statement was made in the context of the quest for equality for african americans, it is particularly apt in the context of the daily work that we do. Police officers regularly ignore the protections of the Bill of Rights afforded our citizens, despite having taken a oath to support and defend the Constitution.
Prosecutors, who take the same oath, often look the other way in the hope that defense counsel won’t notice the officer’s disregard of the citizen’s constitutional rights. And when the officer is called to task for their misdeeds, some judges ignore these very basic and essential protections, and tacitly acknowledge that such transgressions are simply a part of doing business in a world filled with crime. So, even though the protections of the 4th Amendment are given to us in the Constitution, they are often not honored by the police.
It is incumbent upon us to win this freedom for our client and our community by filing and winning a motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search. So too with suppressing statements obtained when the police skirt Miranda, or statements taken in violation of the right to counsel. And, and, and. Again, these freedoms and protections are given to us in principle, but in reality it is the criminal defense attorney that fights and wins these freedoms for our citizens.
This not to say that all police officers ignore our basic freedoms, nor is it to say that all prosecutors choose not to notice the transgressions of the police. Indeed, in a recent conversation with an experienced prosecutor in one of my cases, he volunteered that my clients lengthy statement to the detective was fraught with constitution violations and would not be used. My point is that the majority of the time, we have to diligently fight and win the freedoms are so basic to our system of Justice. Those who do so every day in the trenches of courtrooms around this great state have my utmost admiration and respect. Keep up the good fight and never ever forget that defending and enforcing the constitution is, without a doubt, one of the highest calling.