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Seth Okin on Working in Criminal Defense

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Maryland criminal defense attorney Seth Okin.

What types of the criminal cases do you defend?

Seth Okin: Some of the criminal cases that I defend range from the most minor of cases, such as speeding tickets or failure to obey a properly placed traffic device, to major drug conspiracy cases involving drugs such as cocaine, suboxone, heroin, and everything in between. The most important [aspect of] any of these cases is the impact it can have on the individual’s freedom – freedom from not being in jail or freedom from driving, if it involves a driver’s license. A car is a great tool; it gets you from point A to point B. If you have a family, you may be picking up children or going to the doctor’s office, but, unfortunately, if you’re not careful you can lose that privilege.

What do you enjoy about being a criminal defense attorney?

Seth Okin: Criminal defense attorneys often come with a stigma that they’re going to get the bad guy off, but that’s wholeheartedly untrue. The system has been built and put in place for a reason, and if you’ve been arrested, chances are there’s a good reason. But if there isn’t, you need a criminal defense attorney because we are your last line of defense. If someone’s going to fine you, put you in jail, or take your life, that has a serious impact on your life.

The whole adage of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness does come with rules, and society expects you, as well as the people around you, to be active, law-abiding members. If someone breaks the law, they, unfortunately, have a penalty to pay. But if you’re accused of breaking the law and you didn’t, then you need someone there to make sure that your rights are protected, which are: number one, your right to counsel, and number two, your right to confront your accuser.

Lastly, the state has to prove their case, and if they don’t do everything they’re supposed to do, if they don’t take every step, then you shouldn’t be found guilty. Be it by technicality or true reason, there are rules on both sides, and as a criminal defense attorney you have to be that much smarter than the other person. You have to know every point, from first to last, that has to be hit. Be it assault, be it a driving infraction that involves your license, be it a drug related crime, or any other physical offense… there are rules and there are precedents that are established for a reason, and that is to protect you. That is the job of criminal defense, is to protect those individuals.

You’re not going to change the law, but you’re going to make sure that everyone – the investigators, that the forensic people – has done their job perfectly. Even when they have done their job perfectly, as a criminal defense attorney you still have the ability to mitigate, to lessen the impact of what has happened. You can get your clients into therapy, you can get your clients into classes, you can get them involved in community, in AA, NA, etc.

There are so many tools out there to show that your client deserves a second chance…, and that’s how the situation in itself, while certainly a negative one, can have a positive yield. We want to be able to show that individuals make mistakes, and that’s just life. We’re not perfect, none of us are, and in the instance where you make a mistake, your criminal defense attorney is there for you to help explain these issues and to work through them. If we can’t find you a way to get that not guilty verdict, we find a way to lessen the impact, keep you out of jail, or minimize the impact of jail time on you and your family.

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