Is a Former District Attorney a Good Choice for a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer?
The question of what experiential background best serves your selection of a Colorado criminal defense lawyer is important and should not be ignored. There is a controversy as to whether the experience of a former prosecutor really makes a difference.
Starting out my professional life as a career Arapahoe Douglas County Colorado District Attorney for some 14 years, and then having founded my firm as a Colorado criminal defense lawyer over the last 18 plus years (as of 2017), I side with those who believe that a background as a former prosecutor is of enormous benefit to better represent those accused of crimes in our criminal justice system.
The right experience does matterWhile A Skilled And Accomplished Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Come From ANY Background It Is Clear That Former Prosecutors Have An Edge
The most seasoned Colorado criminal defense lawyers have the kind of lifetime experience that maximize positive outcomes and minimize or eliminate negative results. These lawyers use well honed courtroom skills which, when combined with a solid and sustained knowledge of Colorado criminal law, make the difference in the results they obtain.
As in all professions, living for your work, as I do, makes for the most committed and successful professional.
The unique and contentious environment of the courtroom is no place for a young lawyer to learn his or her craft at the expense of bewildered clients. The place to learn the kind of life experience that makes for the best criminal defense lawyer, in my opinion, is the District Attorney’s Office where the damage done is NOT at the expense of the client.
Former District Attorneys, if they are totally committed to their profession as District Attorneys working the prosecution side of the courtroom receive more experience and training in less time than young lawyer starting out after law school doing criminal defense work.
Colorado’s D.A.’s Offices typically assign large caseloads and responsibilities to very young lawyers. Young prosecutors are thoroughly trained inside and outside of the courtroom working hundreds of hours of “ hands on” litigation on complex and difficult criminal cases. This is especially true in larger jurisdictions such as the Front Range jurisdictions of Denver, Jefferson county, Adams county and Arapahoe and Douglas counties.
Young prosecutors try many jury trials every year and once promoted to handling felony cases there is no comparison to the experience they receive when compared to any other trial lawyer in the profession.
Even former public defenders take several years more to come close to the same number of completed jury trials.
Finally, young prosecutors are usually promoted through the ranks rapidly to “district court” where they begin to prosecute felonies. This usually takes about 2 years. When I was a young prosecutor in the mid 1980’s it was common for 2nd or 3rd year DA’s to prosecute very serious felonies, including crimes such as the most serous sexual assaults, homicides, white collar crimes, and major drug conspiracies.
I personally experienced that world for the first 14 of my 38 years in this highly specialized area of Colorado criminal law and that experience coupled with the last 18 years on the other side of the courtroom has made me the criminal defense lawyer I am today.
I have literally prosecuted and defended thousands of felonies and tens of thousands of misdemeanors. Since forming my own form in 1999, I have defended thousands of Federal, State and Municipal criminal cases in every region and in every county of Colorado.There is no Substitute For Courtroom Experience and There Never Will Be
Specialization means focusing on one thing and one thing only. For me specialization has meant a love and dedication to understanding Colorado criminal law inside and outside of the courtroom. It is a life that has created an archive of real courtroom experience and a deeper understanding of Colorado criminal law.
There is no substitute for this kind of life’s work…none. It is only through years of courtroom confrontation and the daily analysis of criminal cases in and out of the harsh reality of the courtroom day in and day out that can and will equip a lawyer with the kind of wisdom that makes a criminal defense lawyer a worthy adversary in the world of criminal defense.Insight Comes From Experience on Both Sides of the Courtroom
If you are a part of the Colorado criminal justice system, you know there are two types of attorneys who spend almost all of their time in court… constantly… every day arguing cases before criminal court judges: those men and women are the District Attorneys and the Public Defenders.
No other legal professional comes close this level of courtroom experience. If you want to retain a lawyer and you do not qualify for a court appointed public defender based on income levels to tap that kind of specialized experience you are left with former prosecutors and former public defenders.Do Former District Attorney Prosecutors Really Have “An Edge?”
“Know your opposition, and the environment within which interaction will occur.”
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Here are just a few of the reasons why a former prosecutor could make an excellent criminal defense lawyer in your case:
- A former prosecutor has tried cases on both sides of the courtroom. This results in a thorough understanding of the trial process. Prosecutors bear the burden of proof in criminal cases they must prove their cases beyond a reasonable doubt. This experience gives the prosecutor turned criminal defense lawyer a “unique feel” for which cases should be negotiated and which cases should go to trial.
- A former prosecutor will know how the State through law enforcement investigates and gathers evidence. It is the DA that decides whether and which charges will be filed. Knowing how the police investigate and gather evidence and knowing which charges to file means knowing what evidence to look for, where to look for that evidence, and then knowing the right questions to challenge the persuasiveness of that evidence.
- A former prosecutor will know when the State’s case is weak, where it is weak and where the case is solid and unassailable.
- If a case is strong and exoneration or a dismissal of the case is not possible only a trial or a plea bargain are among the choices available. When a plea bargain is unavoidable for the defense because of the sheer strength of the prosecution’s case, the former prosecutor now working as a criminal defense lawyer will most likely be in the best position to negotiate a reasonable and acceptable plea bargain for his or her client. Former prosecutors well understand the impact of heavy caseloads placed on the shoulders of the DA and will know how far that State prosecutor can be “pushed to plea bargain.”
- A former prosecutor has learned over time to think fast and on their feet in the courtroom.
- Private criminal defense lawyers, who once were prosecutors, as noted, are aware of the volume of work of the prosecutor that limits and makes difficult or impossible the investment of the kind of time necessary to truly master a case. Private criminal defense lawyers have the time that prosecutors do not and these former prosecutors will know how to exploit this advantage.
- Former prosecutors have been trained in the crucible that is the courtroom and specifically in the techniques that prosecutors routinely use. ALL trial lawyers should tell you that there will never be a substitute for actual courtroom time in front of Judges and of Juries.
“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.”
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
It must be mentioned that not all former prosecutors have had the same experience level. If the lawyer you are vetting was a former DA ask how many years they were a prosecutor, under what conditions, and whether they handled the kind of case with which you are charged. Did the lawyer handle major felonies such as gang cases, complex fraud and white collar cases, juvenile felony crimes, sex crimes, and serious violent crimes such as homicide and kidnapping.
Also important in vetting your potential lawyer is to learn if possible the reputation your prospective lawyer developed as a prosecutor. If the case is in Arapahoe county and he or she was an Arapahoe county DA what was that lawyer’s reputation in the Arapahoe County legal community?
It is a good bet that an exceptional District Attorney will make an exceptional criminal defense lawyer. The attention to detail, thoroughness, work ethic, courtroom skills does not change over time. An excellent criminal defense lawyer will have great negotiation skills backed up by great courtroom skills.
A trial lawyer’s leverage in plea bargaining is in direct proportion to his ability to dominate the courtroom in the event of a trial.Make Certain The Former Prosecutor You Are Considering Has Been A Criminal Defense Lawyer For At Least 8 To 10 Years
One thing must be emphasized here is this the skills and strategy used every day by District Attorneys to prosecute criminal cases are not exactly the same skills used to defend criminal matters. Although the skills gained in the DA’s office, as discussed above, provide excellent training for criminal defense, it takes many years as a criminal defense lawyer to make the transition successfully and completely.
The very specialized techniques criminal defense lawyers use each day take many years to develop my recommendation is to look for at least 8 to 10 years experience defending Colorado criminal cases.Summary And Conclusion -Is A Former District Attorney A Good Choice For A Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer?
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
H. Michael Steinberg has been practicing ONLY Colorado criminal law for over 38 years, on both sides of the courtroom. Put his excellent legal skills and understanding of Colorado criminal law to your case today.
It is always sound advice to try to find the best lawyer you can afford. Your life, and the pursuit of your life long dreams may be at stake. To have the best chance at the best result in your case you will need to retain a lawyer who has the practical experience and knowledge of the system to make that possible.
A former prosecutor has successfully litigated thousands of cases from the most minor of misdemeanors to the most complex of felonies you need that experience to now work for you.Is A Former District Attorney A Good Choice For A Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer?
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The reader is admonished that Colorado criminal law, like criminal law in every state and at the Federal level, changes constantly. The article appearing above was accurate at the time it was drafted but it cannot account for changes occurring after it was uploaded.
If, after reading this article, you have questions about your case and would like to consider retaining our law firm, we invite you to contact us at the Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm 303-627-7777.
Never stop fighting never stop believing in yourself and your right to due process of law. You will not be alone in court, H. Michael will be at your side every step of the way advocating for justice and the best possible result in your case. H. Michael Steinberg is passionate about criminal defense. His extensive knowledge and experience of Colorado Criminal Law gives him the edge you need to properly handle your case
About The Author: H. Michael Steinberg Email The Author at [email protected]. A Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance please call 720-220-2277.
“A good criminal defense lawyer is someone who devotes themselves to their client’s case from beginning to end, always realizing that this case is the most important thing in that client’s life.”
You should be careful to make a responsible choice in selecting a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer. We encourage you to “vet” our firm. Over the last 30 plus years by focusing ONLY on Colorado criminal law H. Michael has had the necessary time to commit to the task of constantly updating himself on nearly every area of criminal law, to include Colorado criminal law and procedure and trial and courtroom practice. H. Michael works hard to get his clients the best possible results in and out of the courtroom. He has written, and continues to write, extensively on Colorado criminal law and he hopes this article helps you in some small way Is A Former District Attorney A Good Choice For A Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer?