How does a judge know that the defendant actually committed the crime he is accused of? How does he know that a plea of guilty really is borne by remorse? How severe a sentence must be imposed on a woman who, despite instructions from child protective services, does not hand over her children to their father because she is worried he could become violent? How should a youth be punished, who naively gave his friend access to an eBay account and is now supposed to be held liable for his friend’s VAT amounting to hundreds of thousands of Euros?
All of these questions allow various answers. The difficult search for the truth and for justice is often uncomfortable and prone to conflicts.
The criminal defence lawyer is assigned a central function in the process of finding out the truth.
In criminal proceedings, the defendant is entitled to some rights. These rights have their roots in human dignity, in the act of fairness and in the presumption of innocence. Important defence rights are, for example, the right to remain silent, to appoint a defence lawyer or to actively have influence on the proceedings by means of motions to take evidence. All of these defendant rights signify a constitutional state. But what would the guarantees of a constitutional state be worth if an innocent defendant didn’t know them or if they weren’t heeded in the proceedings?
It is the criminal defence lawyer’s responsibility to explain the rights to the defendant and to stand up for their adherence. Where necessary, the adherence to the procedural rules of the games must be demanded.
In criminal proceedings it is not only about procedural questions of law but frequently about whether the right defendant is actually in the dock. In order to find this out, uncomfortable questions must sometimes be asked by the defence. When the path towards finding the truth is disputable and stony, it is the defence lawyer’s responsibility to “make the unheard heard”.
A criminal defence lawyer must be ready to settle conflicts for the client during the proceedings and also be able to put himself in both the defendant’s and the witnesses’ position in order to not lose the sense of the realistic chances in the proceedings.
Criminal law is not always criminal law. The crimes our clients are accused of range from smaller, supposedly less serious cases such as fare evasion, traffic crimes or smaller narcotic offences to extensive cases of fraud, crimes of violence or capital crimes.
In the scope of our activities as defence lawyers, one of our main focuses is on the field of commercial law and criminal code for tax offences. These include all crimes relating to economic life. This covers, for example, fraud, corruption, bankruptcy crimes and tax evasion. In this case, besides having a special legal qualification, an understanding of economic correlations and a readiness to see beyond one’s own nose are needed.
Criminal cyber law, for example, covers the criminal nature of phishing, the reliability of certain procedural methods of evaluation, the possession or distribution of illegal contents as well as the typical manifestations of modern crimes (e.g. eBay fraud). Lawyers who deal with criminal cyber law face special challenges due to fast technical developments. The classic fields of criminal law are extended by overlaps of issues of copyright, competition law or commercial law.