I see this all the time in lawyer advertisements and have really asked myself, should I be doing this too? Every time I arrived at the same answer-“no.” As a prosecutor of many years, there was nothing worse than dealing with a so-called “aggressive” criminal defense attorney.
Prosecutors, law enforcement, clerks of court, and judges are not computers or machines. They are people just like you and me and very few (possibly none) like dealing with aggression. Charleston Attorney Stephan Futeral recently wrote an article similar to this one on “aggressiveness” with respect to civil cases. He said, “Being ‘aggressive’ is not the same thing as being ‘zealous.'” I couldn’t agree more. Zealous representation is accepted, expected and appreciated by all. “Aggressive” representation is — well, the opposite. I can assure you that it doesn’t accomplish much, except that it can unfortunately cause the prosecution to dig in their heels and be simply unwilling to negotiate, especially if criminal responsibility is clear.
Many people have a misconception that criminal defense is about hard-nose tactics and extreme cunning and wit. While all of that can be true at times, in reality, criminal defense is 95% knowledge, negotiation, some begging, and other attempts at a fair resolution of the particular case in the client’s favor. Very rarely does a criminal defense attorney have to “go on the attack.”
It has been my experience that the “friendly and approachable” method goes much further than the so-called “aggressive” method. In return, mysteriously enough, officers call back, prosecutors hear me out, and courts are more willing to grant a continuance when it’s necessary.
Keep this in mind when deciding who to hire as a criminal defense attorney. During the writing of this article, I had a client ask me, “Are you going to be aggressive?” “Absolutely not,” I told her.