We criminal defense lawyers are citizen soldiers who have been sworn to uphold the Constitutions of Texas and the United States. Our oath and duty demand that we render both ethical and professional assistance of counsel. It is not enough that we provide competent help, but rather, we must provide effective help. Further, it is not enough that we provide effective assistance of counsel in most of our cases because our oath promise compels us to be effective in every case—no exceptions!
My 31 years of defense work have taught me that effectiveness only comes from putting in the necessary hours to learn the facts, law, science, and skills before you go to an evidentiary hearing or trial. In cowboy vernacular, it takes a lot of wet blankets if you want to ride a horse right!
Recently, at one of our seminars, I observed that many defenders there were unaware of the applicable DWI law and science relating to breath and blood testing cases. Indeed, it appeared that important and basic subjects—such as the DPS “Standard Operating Guidelines for Technical Supervisors” ( revised 4/18/2011); the repeal of Section 221.9, Texas Administrative Code (7/14/2011, relating to proficiency certification for Standardized Field Sobriety Testing) ; the scientific meaning of the phrase “uncertainty of measurement” (see Voice for the Defense, 5/2011); and ISO 17025 ( International Organization for Standardization guidelines/rules relating to general Requirements for the Competence of testing and calibration laboratories)—were not known). Also, it was noted that many were not up to speed on devices regularly used in blood testing prosecutions such as a pipette, an auto diluter, and the gas chromatograph. Understanding and acknowledging their deficiencies, these defenders rallied to gain the necessary education to make them effective—they made me proud of their thirst for knowledge and their desire to ride right.
Every time a defense lawyer enters a courtroom, that defender engages in a battle for justice not just for that particular client, but also for all defendants everywhere. Of import is the fact that there can be no promise of justice absent the defense lawyer. Our forefathers understood that having only a judge and prosecutor were insufficient measures to ensure fundamental freedom. Indeed, it was recognition of this truth that the guarantee of assistance of counsel was affirmatively written into the Sixth Amendment as a reserved freedom.
That said, every time a defense lawyer enters a courtroom, that defender must carry the responsibility and resolve that the sacrifices made by our military in protecting our freedom and liberty were not made in vain. We constitutional defense warriors have the privilege and honor to carry on their unfinished business of protecting rights and to dedicate our work to those brave service heroes who gave their all that we might remain a free people. We must have the same courage on our battlefields as they had in theirs if we are to hold true to our mission and oath.
We cannot accomplish this goal without first obtaining the necessary educational ammunition. Enter TCDLA! Your Association is a force and tool for freedom. It is your force and your tool! As an Association, it benefits each of you by multiplying your voice by more than three thousand times. As an Association, we promise each other that we need not stand alone, just as we promise our clients that they need not stand alone. As a tool, TCDLA is there to make available the very best legal education for you. Part of your duty is to seize upon that educational opportunity and to support TCDLA as it supports you.
There is a great task remaining before us, and its completion requires an ongoing alliance between each of us and our Association. That task is to promote and defend fundamental notions of fairness and justice. And so, let us strive together to remind the judges, prosecutors, and, most importantly, the citizens that ours is and must be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people! In Proverbs 18:21, NIV, it is written that “[t]he tongue has the power of life and death. . . .” We must be that tongue, that voice, that spirit of freedom and loudly declare that we, individually and collectively, will not falter in our duty! I am blessed to be amongst you!
J. Gary Trichter