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Confronting our demons on the road to success

Highly-rated Northern Virginia DWI defense/criminal defense lawyer on confronting a criminal defendants' demons on the road to sucess

Mar 06, 2016 Confronting our demons on the road to success

One of my part-time jobs while a student was at a retail store where the manager at once mesmerized me with his uncanny ability to lead, teach and persuade, and disgusted me with the one time he uttered the N-word, when dismissing all African Americans as not being able to be motivated (and where an employee whom I had thought was a class act changed all that in suggesting using a whip).

I looked up this manager online recently and learned that he had fallen quite a bit since I first met him decades ago. He is hardly the first person with the seeds of success to let his demons undo him.

Again and again, I hear my clients who look successful on paper tell me of the pressures that led them to improvidently get behind the wheel after drinking, grow marijuana at home rather than seeking legal alternatives (even though marijuana can be a superior alternative, at least where legal, with fewer adverse side effects), and risk their security clearances by soliciting prostitution services. Many seemingly successful people have themselves holding together with little stronger than proverbial scotch tape and Elmer’s glue.

So many people feel in a pressure cooker, expected to present themselves at work, to their clients and with their families as having it all together, even when key parts of their lives are crumbling or threatening to crumble. Where do such people turn to? Even if they resolve to visit a psychological professional, how to find one that is empathetic and helpful rather than paternalistic, judgmental and destructive, and how to find one who will meet outside of the potential patient’s long working hours? They often do not want to pester their friends and family with their problems, as their friends and family have their own issues and schedules to handle. Their dog may give them unconditional affection, but does not speak their language. The alcohol bottle, pill bottle, and reefer can become a comfort as a result.

When used in a balanced and moderate fashion, an alcoholic drink here and there can be fine, but to reduce the risk of a DWI arrest, it is best not to drive within twenty-four hours of drinking, as much as peers, restaurants and bars for their own reasons will claim that is being overly careful. Aside from the governing law, using illegal drugs is too risky for anyone who cares about the adverse impact a drug conviction will have on their lives .

In any event, by the time my clients come to me charged with a crime, they are dealing with one form of imbalance or another, with their case itself being a cause of imbalance.

My clients can present a stoic facade to their friends, family and coworkers over their court cases, and I can advise my clients that it is good not to sweat in front of the opponent, but with me, I encourage them to let their hair down, to remove their protective armor, and to bare their very selves and souls to me so that I may fully relate with them, help them, and present their persuasive story.

My clients will only open themselves up to me not only if they know they can trust me to keep their secrets, but also not to judge them, to accept them for who they truly are, and not to care any less for them when they reveal their true selves. They also want to know that after they bare their souls, that when they walk out of my office they will feel better than when they walked in. Sometimes that simply means my showing full empathy and compassion. Sometimes that involves my sharing some of my own challenging experiences with them and baring some of my own soul back. That always means my giving them my client my full presence and attention.

Sometimes it takes several meetings with my client before reaching that breakthrough moment when my client sometimes for the first time in years or decades confronts his or her long suppressed demons. Once those demons are proverbially exorcised, the defense can move forward all the better, no longer weighted down as much by those demons.

Of course, I cannot and will not serve in the role of a substitute for a psychological professional for my client. However, I am there to deal with my client as a whole person to fully serve my client. If my client puts on a stoic veneer at all times s/he is dealing with me, that is a barrier to my fully serving my client.

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2 Comments
  • Chris Flohr
    Posted at 09:02h, 09 March Reply

    Thank you Jon for your thoughtful post. You are truly a gift to the criminal defense community and the world at large.

    • Jon Katz
      Posted at 06:24h, 10 March Reply

      Thanks, Chris.

      For those who do not know Chris, he and I have participated in numerous trial workshops and brainstorming sessions together, where his ideas repeatedly are on the money.

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