Nicole Valera – Criminal Defense

Fighting the system, one case at a time…

Criminal Defense: Vile? Or Necessary?


US Supreme Court

Image by dbking via Flickr

I had known in law school that I wanted to practice criminal defense and the minute I passed the bar I applied to and was accepted for employment with the Los Angeles County Public Defender‘s Office. I had clerked there for 2 years in law school and was so excited to be able to finally do what I was sure I would love.

And I did love it. Only when I told other people (even other lawyers) that I was a criminal defense attorney, most people looked at me with shock in their face. This shock did not come from the fact that I was young (I was 26 when I started practicing law), but from the fact that I was practicing (in their opinion), a vile and despicable area of law. I fielded (and continue to field) questions like, “How do you sleep at night?” “How can you live with yourself?” “Aren’t you scared of your clients?” “Well you plead them all guilty automatically if they’re guilty, right?”

I don’t really look at criminal defense that way. Some people have the luxury of making it a black and white issue. I do not. My job is to make sure that the constitution is protected. My job is to make sure that the constitution isn’t just a lot of words written down in a book, but an actual way of life. My job is to prevent the police from just stopping you on the street for no reason. My job is to prevent the government from locking you up without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. My job is to prevent us from living in a police state. My job is to make sure that laziness and bureaucracy do not take precedence over your rights and what is just. My job…is hard.

I am in private practice now and my philosophy hasn’t changed. Of course there is a business aspect to it, but I make sure that my clients rights come first, sometimes before my own needs, and of course, within reason. It is easy for the people in ivory towers and the talking heads to brand someone a criminal, call them guilty, and move on to the next news story about the latest celebrity scandal. But people are not perfect, and you never know when a simple mistake, a bad decision, an unfortunate circumstance, or bad timing, can put you in a position where you or your loved one are forced to defend your reputation, your freedom, and even your life. If you or someone you loved were ever to be in that situation, wouldn’t you want someone who didn’t pass judgment on you? Wouldn’t you want someone who treated you like a human being, and respected and revered the constitution and all the rights and liberties it bestows on everyone here in America? I would.

So, to answer one of the oft asked questions – I sleep just fine at night.

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January 22, 2010 - Posted by | General Thoughts, Minor Infractions, THIS is why it's worth it | , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. A very professional attitude. I am glad to know that some people believe in protecting the constitutional rights of their clients. In the long run when people are being denied their constitutional rights then we do have a police state, in my opinion. I can see why you give speeches at the University. I suggest in the future you write a book about juveniles in the courts as a deterrent, and include the steps to become a lawyer, and used as required reading for all students in high school, a paperback to start with. I will have my 3 children read this post.

    Comment by presea | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thank you so much Presea for the kind words. The fact that you think my post is something you want your children to read is another huge compliment.

    Perhaps someday I will write a book…you never know…

    Comment by nicolevaleralaw | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] it happens to our friends and colleagues, and we see it for ourselves.  I have often been asked  how I can live with myself doing the job that I do –  Well this article highlights one of the most important reasons I […]

    Pingback by Nicole Valera, Attorney at Law – Blog | October 5, 2010 | Reply


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