New York Defense Attorney Talks Public Perception

New York Defense Attorney Talks Public Perception

New York Defense Attorney Talks Public Perception

New York, NY—Saul Bienenfeld says that in today's criminal justice system, the public’s  perception of defense attorneys is all wrong.

“One of the biggest challenges criminal defense attorneys face is the perception of people who question the reasoning behind defending people charged with a crime,” he told in a recent interview.  “Many of my clients are innocent, and even if my client is guilty, they are still entitled to the best defense they could possibly get.  People don't understand that, and it is often looked upon as if I am doing a disservice to the community by defending them.”

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This, he says, leaves the public believing that defense attorneys are barely a step above criminals, themselves—a situation that isn't the same in other countries using a similar legal system.  “In this country, we have a negative perception of criminal defense attorneys, whereas in England, you could be both the prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney at the same time,” explains Bienenfeld.  “I'm not saying they have a better system, but they don't perceive criminal defense attorneys the same as they do in this country.”

For defendants, one of the biggest choices can be whether to go to trial.  In a legal environment where only about 5 percent of total criminal cases ever go to trial, Bienenfeld says that he is “not afraid to take a case to trial when my clients insist on it.  I also believe it's a good idea to take a case to trial if I know I can win the cases.  As long as I have the client's consent, I am not opposed to it.”

New attorneys who are interested in the life of criminal defense lawyers don't need to go any further than their local courthouse, according to Bienenfeld.  “Go to as many trials as you can,” he advises.  “Some of the top litigators are trying cases in federal court.  It's also a good idea to visit state courts and watch trials. When my parents were dating my dad would take my mom to night court to watch what goes on.  It was an exciting night out that cost nothing.  As trial attorneys we have an obligation to continually learn new trial techniques what better way is there then to watch them first hand."

Good interpersonal skills will also help, he says.  “Don't be afraid to go up to the attorney and ask them case specific questions.  When I first started, the best advice I got was: 'Go to the courthouses and invite other attorneys to lunch.'  You will get known and you will gain great experience.”

While some attorneys might consider an innocent client easier to defend, Bienenfeld says that cases involving the wrongfully accused can actually be the most stressful.  “I feel very passionate about proving my client's innocence, to such a degree that I lose sleep thinking about my client,” he says.  “There is always a slight possibility that an innocent person is charged with a crime they did not commit, and then it becomes my fault if they are found guilty.”

One of the biggest surprises for Bienenfeld has been the way that media reacts when a high profile client is in trouble.  “The press sometimes finds out information about a defendant or a case that even I can't find—I am astonished at how they are able to get certain information.”

As a former Assistant District Attorney for The Special Narcotics Bureau, with over 20 years experience as a successful criminal defense attorney he fully understands both sides of the field. The Law Offices of Saul Bienenfeld P.C. is always ready to help out his fellow New Yorkers. To learn more about his practice please visit




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