770-919-9525 • FRYELAWGROUP.COM
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR JOB IS TO OFFER AN ‘UNPOPULAR OPINION’?
Everyone has the right to their own opinions. But sometimes, people’s opinions go against the majority, and those are deemed “unpopular opinions.” For example, some people claim to dislike chocolate, Batman, and dogs, all things that are enjoyed by the vast majority of the population. I was recently asked if I had any unpopular opinions, and it got me thinking about my line of work. Defense attorneys are frequently mischaracterized as only trying to set criminals free, but there is something fundamentally wrong with that assumption. You see, I have a very different definition of the word “criminal” than most people do. In over a decade working in criminal defense, I’ve found that people who are charged with crimes are regular people who happen to have had a small brush with the law. Being human means one can expect to make mistakes, and everyone seems to accept they will make several mistakes throughout their lifetime, but few believe they will ever be accused of a crime. But, in the majority of cases, that’s all criminal charges are: mistakes. “Being human means one can expect to make mistakes, and everyone seems to accept they will make several mistakes throughout their lifetime, but few believe they will ever be accused of a crime.” Because so many people can’t imagine themselves being charged with a criminal offense, they often believe that talking to the police is an ideal option. This is a widespread phenomenon. I even saw a truck parked outside the courthouse the other day with a big sign that said “Support police, not criminals.” Unfortunately, talking to the police won’t make them give you the benefit of the doubt. Think about this: If an officer already suspects you, every step they take is under the direction of their existing confirmation bias. They want to complete their part of the case by making an arrest. They want to prove themselves right. In that way, anything you say can incriminate you, even if you’re innocent. Furthermore, regardless of whether someone is innocent or guilty of the crime they’re being accused of, the system will chew them up because it is broken. Think about the addict who gets prison time instead of help, the mentally ill individual who gets probation rather than medical counseling, or the young kids who are harshly punished in order to serve as a cautionary tale for others. These are things that occur in everyday life, and it truly doesn’t matter if a person is guilty or not. The truth is, the fight against the government is an unfair one, and most people aren’t aware of that.
While I know my perspective is an unpopular one, it makes the referrals I get from judges, other lawyers, and past clients a real honor. After working for the prosecution on the other side of the courtroom, I now know I am doing what I was called to do, and my number one goal is my clients’ freedom. Sometimes it’s freedom from a harsh punishment like prison time, freedom to not have their schooling interrupted, freedom to join the military, or freedom to see their children. What I do may be unpopular, but it’s important, and I’m glad I get the opportunity to help the people who need it.
–Kim Keheley Frye
770-919-9525 • 1
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