Ethics vs. Morals
There is a remarkably thin line between the morals and ethics. However, the difference between the two notions is concise, though subtle. The morals are one’s character traits, beliefs and perceptions of what is wrong or right, good or evil. The morals do not require consistency. The environment and upbringing of a person together with the learned behavior have a significant influence on them. The ethics, on the other hand, refer to the expected code of behavior or character within a society and are characterized by the reason and justification. The ethics, unlike the morals, continue to keep up with the trends of the evolving world. For instance, the topic on abortion has remained sensitive for a long time. Many people consider it as an immoral act due to its general perception as a murder. However, when pregnancy and its consequences put woman’s life at risk, abortion may be unavoidable. Medically, this remains ethical and legal. One’s morals remain invariant, while, on the other hand, the ethics change depending on the circumstances. For instance, company ethics may vary from the family, societal or government ethics. Professional ethics vary from other types of ethics. In criminal justice, professional and legal ethics in particular must override and suppress moral standings of the law enforcer, especially the lawyer, in order to ensure the servitude of justice. The given essay discusses the dilemma concerning the ethics versus morals in criminal justice.
The issue of morality, ethics and justice is long-standing and dates back to the days of the ancient philosophers such as Aristotle. Today, legislations circumvent the beliefs and perspectives, and, very often, this proves to be quite handful, particularly for the lawyers. A defense lawyer may find a murder as atrocious, heinous and reprehensible act. The moral standing of the lawyer is thus unforgiving towards the act. However, presenting the lawyer with a case, in which his client is a murder suspect, may place this lawyer in a difficult situation. He or she would have to argue out the case in defense of the client. Essentially, this amounts to the excusing murder. Professional ethics demand defending the client vehemently and vigorously, despites the fact that the client is guilty. If the client is really guilty, and the lawyer is aware of this, it presents a situation, in which the lawyer openly defends a crime that deserves a punishment.
The legal system requires upholding of the attorney-client privilege, which is closely related to the doctor-patient privilege. No party has the right to divulge any information discussed between the attorney and the client to any external or third party. Breach of the privilege constitutes a breach of a contract. Either party reserves the right to sue the affected party or to pull out of the agreement altogether. For example, an attorney was representing his client accused of being an accomplice in murder. The client confided in the lawyer that her boyfriend had murdered and buried the victim, his ex-wife. The woman did not share this information with the relevant authority. The lawyer urged her to report the matter to the police, but the client was reluctant. Moreover, she purposely declined to do so. According to the attorney-client privilege, the attorney could not do much regarding the information he had received. Even though he was aware of the fact that he was defending an accomplice in the heinous crime, he could do nothing but to defend his client as vigorously as possible. The other option he had was to pull out of the agreement. In this case, the client would have to look for another lawyer. However, whichever choice he opted for, the attorney-client privilege ensured that he kept his mouth shut regarding the revelations of his client.
The choice between good and evil or right and wrong can become quite difficult in the criminal justice system, which requires putting justice on the first place. Sometimes, the dilemma presented may force the lawyer or the law enforcer to make decisions against their wishes. For example, a lawyer is defending a man accused of defrauding a company that deals with auto parts. While discussing the aspects of the case with the client, the lawyer realizes that the client is unable to provide an account of the events. The lawyer appears in the middle. He suspected that it was not his real client he was conversing with, but the client’s twin brother. On the one hand, he could go on with the conversation and divulge further crucial and sensitive information to the person he thought was an impostor. On the other hand, he could withdraw and raise suspicion of cold feet from the client. After an extensive consultation, the lawyer approached a judge who ruled for reading of the client’s fingerprints. True to the lawyer’s suspicion, it was indeed the client’s brother. Thus, it presents yet another challenge that is usually experienced by the officers in criminal justice. Sometimes, they are exposed to such dilemma without even realizing this moral and ethical battle that takes place within them.
In order to ensure a proper servitude of justice, the prosecution and the courts also need to differentiate between the morals and ethics. The prosecution team does not need to bring up the skeletons in the closet of the accused in a bid to twist the ruling of the jury to its favor. Indeed, the legal ethics require disregarding past related actions and misdeeds against the defendant. However, this may stand in the way of the beliefs of a member or a whole prosecution team. The members of prosecution may have a belief that a mistake remains a mistake, which was done yesterday or may be done tomorrow, and every mistake deserves a punishment. Thus, this is where the question of the morals and ethics goes begging again.
The legal ethics and common morals clash at times, becoming a painful dilemma for the lawyers. Sometimes, they have to make decisions against their wishes. Very often, the criminal justice policies circumvent most of the lawyers’ convictions. Eventually, the policies make a fair trial possible.
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