The Origin of the Criminal Attorney
The concept of law, and its companion concept, crime, both have a past rooted in the formation of the state in human history. Societies have always had guidelines and social pressure, but it is not until the emergence of the state that law is codified and enforced. Lawyers exist in modern legal systems to deal criminal cases. While civil law deals with financial decisions, criminal courts deal with punishment, and having a criminal attorney makes all the difference for the accused.
A criminal attorney exists for the purpose of either prosecuting or defending in a criminal court case. Prosecutors work on the side of the state, while defenders work on behalf of the accused in legal systems in which the accused are considered innocent until proven otherwise and provided with the opportunity to have a fair trial.
The state is the concept from which law and crime derive. The state has a long history in both Western and Eastern thought, and it has undergone many different forms since its emerging in human history. Comparatively, the criminal attorney is a more recent conceptual invention, as courts in the past afforded much fewer rights to those accused of breaking the law.
For example, in ancient Rome, one could be declared a “homo sacer”, which literally means a person set apart from the rest of the community. This person could be legally killed, because he or she was not considered a part of society any longer. Typically, this form of banishment was a form of punishment for those who had broken oaths. The modern term for this condition would be an “outlaw”, meaning someone to whom the law no longer applies.
Later, the concept of habeas corpus was introduced into English law to prevent the accused from being pushed outside of the law’s boundaries. Habeas corpus basically means that the accused must be afforded a trial, although the concept of a trial by jury came later. It is through this process that the need for a criminal attorney was formed.
As mentioned previously, the authority of law is derived from the power of the state and its legal apparatus. In courts, there is a complex exchange of human language in both the form of verbal discussion and written documents. Without written documents, codified systems of law could not exist. Law is a function of written language, and a criminal attorney must be a person who is highly skilled at both verbal argument and reading comprehension.
In a court, the judge is the authority figure at the top of the court room hierarchy. In a jury trial, the decision is ultimately handed down by a jury of the accused peers, although the judge decides the sentences. In some cases, for certain crimes, a mandatory minimum sentence has been set, which prevents judges from given reduced sentences.
Criminal defense is a right that we may take for granted. It may not be a perfect system, but the modern legal system affords the accused with more rights than they have traditionally had in past societies. The option to have a lawyer defend the accused is a legal standard worth protecting.