May a Christian
Lawyer Represent a Guilty Criminal
Under the state and federal law, a defendant in a criminal case is presumed to be innocent. This presumption requires that the People have the burden to prove a defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Unless the evidence proves that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he or she is entitled to an acquittal (i.e., a legal finding of “not guilty”)
objects to a lawyer
defending a person who is
actually innocent of committing the crime for which they are charged. But many cannot understand
how an attorney
can morally defend a person who did, in fact, commit a crime.
One secular rationale for
representing a criminal defendant and,
in some cases, forcing the prosecution to prove its case in an
trial, is as follows: If the law permitted anyone to be convicted of a
without requiring that the case be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,
life, liberty and freedom as United States citizens ceases to exist and
will reign. Unchecked,
the government may abuse the innocent as readily as the guilty.
Looking to the Bible for
guidance on this issue, some
cite Jesus, who was called upon to judge the woman caught “in
the very act” of
adultery, which was a capital offense.
Instead, Jesus defended her (John
defended the accused woman who, it
appears, was the factually guilty of the wrongdoing!
And Jesus charged her to thereafter “Go
sin no more” (John 8:11).
attorney representing a wrongdoing party can many times work out a
that is more beneficial to all involved rather than the administration
Further, like Jesus did
in the above example, a Christian attorney may, in certain appropriate
conditions, be able to minister to the spiritual needs and struggles of
her client as well.
In order to have a
“fair trial,” (which democratic
societies should strive for) the accused person, like the prosecuting
government, also has a lawyer on his or her side, standing by the
advocating on his or her behalf.
However, a lawyer, defending an accused person,
ought not to lie, hide
or destroy documents, twist and distort evidence, or obscure the truth.
A criminal defense attorney
once told me that, regarding
his drunk driving and/or traffic ticket cases, he would contact the
department and find out when the arresting traffic officer was on
off duty. Then he
would seek to schedule
the trial on a date when the officer was on vacation or not on duty. With the arresting traffic
available as a witness to testify against his accused client, the
court would often dismiss the case.
my opinion, this oversteps the line of legitimate advocacy.
Nevertheless, in the
of the courtroom,
an attorney at law must advocate for the client by emphasizing and
on the favorable evidence while seeking to minimize, neutralize or
unfavorable evidence against his or her client.
Thus, as a partisan advocate, one is duty bound to
but within the bounds
of the law.
Thus, in the big picture, a highly zealous
yet ethical attorney aids the cause of imperfect secular justice rather
A Christian lawyer is a
when the necessary or beneficial, he or
she will, like David taking on Goliath (1 Samuel 17), be a formidable
sometimes peace and
justice must come at a price.
Thus, in this writer’s opinion, there is a place for a Christian attorney to represent criminal defendants whether they be wrongfully charged or not. But a Christian lawyer must be on guard to not overstep the bounds of legitimate advocacy (Proverbs 4:23).