Brown & Little, P.L.C. » Blog

Victim Safety

Last year, I had in a Pinal County felony case where the plea agreement stipulated to probation and the state agreed to release my client to pretrial services at the time of the change of plea. After my client entered his change of plea, however, the court refused to release him, citing victim safety and the violent nature of the crime. When I later met with my client, he was irritated by the court’s ruling, but not for the reasons I expected. His question was, “if they’re so worried about the victim, why did they make him my cellmate?” My eyes grew big, and at first, I didn’t believe him. Later on, I found out that, sure enough, the victim had indeed been picked up by the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts, jail, Victim's Rights

ASU No. 1 in Law School Rankings

I’m not talking about those silly U.S. News & World Report rankings. I’m talking about these rankings. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if I should be proud of my alma mater or start telling people I went to U of A. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Law School

A Policy of Wasting Time

One of the most common frustrations I encounter from week to week is the seemingly ubiquitous court policy of not ruling on defense motions to continue until the time of the hearing that’s supposed to be continued. It defies logic. In the past, I’ve timely filed the motion, specifically said I want the hearing date vacated and reset, and the state has even stipulated, but courts have still insisted on wasting my time and my client’s time by requiring we both attend the hearing before granting the continuance. When I show up for those hearings, the courtroom is invariably overcrowded, the judge is furiously trying to rush through the docket, and there are a number of highly irritable and impatient defense attorneys sitting around. Although the judge usually … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Practice in General

Mandatory Minimums, Maximums

Arizona’s sentencing statutes contain ranges of permissible prison sentences for different classes of felonies. Defendants with historical prior felony convictions face ranges with longer minimum and maximum sentences. If a defendant has more than two historical priors, the additional priors may be considered aggravating factors which merit a longer sentence within the statutory range, but there aren’t any special statutory sentencing ranges for people with three, four, or five historical priors. Usually, the most a judge can give someone with two historical priors will be the same as what the judge can give someone with three or more historical priors. Prosecutors regularly get that wrong. I recently had a prosecutor argue that my client, who had a ton of historical priors and was charged with a class two felony, … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Statutes, Practice in General, Prosecutors

Scary Numbers

I had a sentencing yesterday morning, and I arrived early because I hoped the court would call my client’s case first. The commissioner hearing the case usually likes to start with a group advisement of rights for all the defendants (if they’re all informed of their rights in advance, a judge can save some time because he won’t have to individually tell them what they’re giving up if they choose to enter a plea), but sometimes he’ll do a sentencing or two first if the attorneys get there early enough. While I was waiting for court to start, I had an interesting conversation with the bailiff. She said the morning calendar consisted of 14 sentencings and 90 pretrials. As I sat there, I thought about what those numbers … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts, Practice in General

Justifying the Unjustifiable

A little while back, I overheard a defense lawyer loudly explaining to his client why a prior felony conviction could be used to enhance the client’s sentence. The client was looking at a fair amount of mandatory prison because of an old aggravated DUI and kept asking why he should receive harsher punishment because of an old conviction for which he already did time. I think those are fair questions. In Arizona, an aggravated DUI is forever an historical prior felony conviction. Once you’ve been convicted of aggravated DUI, you will always be looking at an enhanced, mandatory prison sentence if you are later charged with pretty much any felony. That aggravated DUI conviction will follow you around for the rest of your life, resulting in worse … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, DUI, Practice in General

Plea Bonuses

I overheard an amusing conversation between two lawyers this morning. One of them is a public defender, and the other is a contract attorney. The public defender was complaining about clients saying this: “You just want me to take the plea because you’ll get a bonus.” (NOTE: for those of you who aren’t familiar with the criminal justice system, I’d bet money that there isn’t a public defender’s office anywhere in the nation that gives its attorneys bonuses for pleading out cases). They had a couple of pretty funny responses, but my favorite was this one: “They actually don’t give me bonuses for pleading out cases. I get a bonus for losing at trial. So, what do you want to do?” It made me … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Practice in General

Your "Privilege" to Drive

A lot of things will get your driver’s license suspended, canceled, revoked or refused here in Arizona. Not paying child support, getting too many tickets, not paying tickets, numerous things involving DUI short of an actual conviction, and convictions for various felonies and misdemeanors will all prevent you from driving. In Arizona, it’s practically impossible to get by without driving. Public transportation is generally inadequate in urban areas, and in rural areas, it’s basically non-existent. Cabs are very expensive. Most people I know who take advantage of buses or the light rail still have to drive a few miles to get to a park and ride. My clients who can’t drive are severely limited in where they can live and work. Not having a car leads to … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases, DUI, Government Rants, MVD Hearings

After the Collapse

Defense attorneys, at least the ones I know, regularly speculate about how much time we have before the criminal justice system finally collapses. The argument is never about whether it’s going to happen, but rather about when it’s going to happen. Spend enough time in court with open eyes, and you’ll wonder the same thing. The system is so broken and overflowing with cases that most of us think it can’t possibly last much longer. Always one to embrace a little doom and gloom, instead of talking about how we might prevent the imminent collapse, I’d rather talk a little about how I think things are likely to be after it happens. Here are my predictions: 1) The Bill of Rights as we know it will be just … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General

Promises, Promises

One of the most common things I hear in initial consultations is that “attorney so-and-so said he could definitely get me X deal.” It can be a frustrating situation when the client was promised something that no defense attorney in their right mind would promise. Sometimes, it ends up being an amusing situation when the “deal” prospective clients claim they were promised really can be guaranteed. Multiple clients have said to me that local high-volume DUI firms told them, “if you hire us for your first time regular DUI, we can get the judge to suspend all but one of the ten mandatory days of jail.” That’s true. It’s a reasonable guarantee because it’s a virtual certainty, but it’s misleading for that same reason. That result has … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Ethics, Practice in General

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