John Adams, one of the Nation’s founding fathers and the second President of the United States, once said, “Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty. Without them we have no other fortification against being ridden like horses, fleeced like sheep, worked like cattle, and fed and clothed like swine and hounds.” Another founder, and this Nation’s third President, Thomas Jefferson said, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” When the government sues a citizen to take his or her liberty or property, jurors serve a role more powerful than the judge, who interprets the law, and the executive branch, who enforces the law. The jury decides whether the Congress should regulate certain behavior, whether the executive branch should enforce the law, and whether the judiciary rightfully applied the law. There is no other interaction between the government and the citizens where citizens oversee all three branches of government. When facing criminal charges or serious allegations from federal agencies with civil and regulatory authority, it is imperative to remember that during trial, the citizen is equal to the government. Despite the importance of a jury trial, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers recently published a study finding only 3% of federal criminal cases go to trial.
The lack of trials has significant repercussions for lawyers and clients. This professional atrophy results in lawyers losing the skills to effectively use the rules of evidence to stop the admission of improper evidence and to discover government misconduct. Consequently, lawyers dedicate more time to negotiating pleas and less time identifying issues that could result in charges being dismissed. Websites allow clients to know more before retaining lawyers, but what information really communicates that a lawyer is prepared to hold the government to the principles of the Constitution?
To practice law, a lawyer must be licensed, what is known as being a member of the Bar. If the word “association” follows “bar,” the organization is voluntary, meaning a lawyer does not have to be a member to practice. To practice law in Florida, a lawyer must be a member of the Florida Bar, but does not need to be a member of the American Bar Association or Federal Bar Association. Most state Bar organizations have processes to certify members as experts. A Florida Bar certified member has been evaluated for experience and expertise in an area of law, professionalism, and ethics. Certified lawyers in criminal trial law are involved in investigation, evaluation, pleading, discovery, taking of testimony, presentation of evidence, and argument of jury and nonjury cases. Certification requires an application, providing proof of extensive trial experience, competence in legal writing, and listing judicial officers and opposing counsel for references. After reviewing the application and conducting a review of judges and lawyers, the Florida Bar approved applicants are allowed to sit for a day-long examination, where the applicant demonstrates thorough knowledge of federal and state criminal law to achieve at least a passing score. Over several years, only half of the applicants pass the test. As of this writing, of the 121,090 Florida Bar members, only 431, or less than 0.4%, are certified in Criminal Trial Law. Only after obtaining Florida Bar certification can one apply to be certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, an American Bar Association accredited organization. The NBTA also requires an extensive application that includes demonstrated experience in various aspects of criminal trial work. Only 24 Florida Bar members are certified in criminal trial by the Florida Bar and the NBTA. Attorneys Mark L. Horwitz and Vincent A. Citro are certified in criminal trial by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocates.
Attorney Horwitz is also a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL). The preeminent organization of trial lawyers, ACTL is dedicated to maintaining and improving the standards of trial practice, professionalism, ethics and the administration of justice. Fellowship is by invitation only and extended to seasoned trial lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy and represent the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality. Less than 1% of the total lawyer population of any state or province in the United States and Canada belong to ACTL.
It is imperative to retain counsel experienced in trials when facing criminal and civil investigations to navigate the perils you face. Contact the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A. immediately if you are under investigation. Call (407) 901-5852 to request a free initial consultation with a criminal defense lawyer.