Can I get a fair trial?
In a perfect world the answer should be yes to getting a fair trial. The reality is that most of the criminal Court judges are former prosecutors. Many of the judges never practiced private law and their experience prior to taking the bench was solely as a prosecutor. They come from a background and history of being “tough on crime”. Judges are supposed to be fair and impartial and not lean towards one side or the other. Although many judges may think they are fair, their rulings and polices would reflect otherwise. In my experience,as a criminal defense lawyer in Sarasota, the longer a judge has been on the bench, the more balanced and fair he or she becomes. Generally, your older judges seem to have a more balanced view and are more compassionate of people’s mistakes in life.
In Florida, judges are supposed to be elected but the reality is that most judges are appointed by the Governor. Once appointed, most, year after year are unopposed when filing time comes and they are up for reelection. Lawyers are afraid to run against them and even if a judge has a history of being terribly one sided, he or she rarely draws opposition. The lawyers in the higher courts (the appeals courts) generally have a much more balanced view. Since judges are in theory elected officials, many want to seem to be “tough on crime” when in reality they are supposed to be fair to both sides. It is tough to get a legal decision in your favor when the subject matter is something the public deems to be heinous, like a sex crime.
Even if the deck is stacked against you with a biased judge, a good experienced criminal defense lawyer can make a difference. Thank god we still have the jury system. The State still has to convince jurors that your client is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I have been trying cases in the criminal courts now for over thirty years and I have been in front of some judges that still seem to be prosecutors but have still gotten good verdicts from the jurors. Our system does work but it works a lot better when a defendant has a highly qualified attorney on his or her side. If you are black or Hispanic, unfortunately, the deck is stacked against you and you really need a lawyer that can balance things. Sarasota is predominantly white, old and conservative. Defending a person of color here when the charge is serious is tough. Even the jurors here carry prejudices and bias they are unaware they have. Jury selection therefore is critical. If you have been arrested in Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas, Hillsborough or have charges in Bradenton, Sarasota or Tampa Bay and need an experienced lawyer to talk to feel free to call me, Peter Aiken, at my Sarasota criminal defense office next door to the Courthouse at 941-366-3506.
Can I get a fair trial?