Find this feature and more member news and profiles in the October edition of Trial Briefs, available exclusively to NCAJ members.
Ben Hiltzheimer is the founder of Hiltzheimer Law Office, PLLC, with offices in Raleigh and Durham. From 2006 to 2011, Ben was employed as an attorney at the federally funded Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. His tenure there included two years in a targeted litigation role focusing on complex forensics and systemic criminal justice issues in partnership with the Innocence Project.
In his capacity as a trial attorney at the Public Defender Service, he represented indigent individuals charged with felonies in the District of Columbia, from their initial appearance in Superior Court through trial. Ben earned his law degree from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the 10th Judicial District Bar Association and the National College for DUI Defense. He lives with his wife and three children in Durham.
What attracted you to criminal defense work?
I’ve thought about this question over the years and I have at least three different answers.
On one hand, I started out specifically as a public defender because I wanted to stand in the shoes of the marginalized and push back against the substantial power of a government that often oversteps its bounds, particularly with respect to minorities and the poor. It was that disparity that first attracted me to this fight, from a core belief that one’s rights shouldn’t be a function of race or socio-economic status.
As I got into the work and it became less abstract, another guiding principle that evolved for me was the more general belief that people shouldn’t be judged solely on the darkest moments in their lives – which is often where I meet my clients for the first time. The system tends to view individuals through the narrow lens of a single act, and part of my job as a defender is to put those acts into the context of an entire human life, with hardships and struggles and often a complicated and tragic story to tell.