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» Entries tagged with "plea"

The Life Of A Private Public Defender

Jamison Koehler put up a post this week about prosecutors and professionalism. Here’s the paragraph that resonated with me the most: I am always annoyed by prosecutors who stroll into the courtroom moments before the judge takes the bench. This results in a rush of defense attorneys toward counsel table seeking to speak with the prosecutors before our cases are called. It makes our job that much more difficult. And then the judge chastises us for not having worked out more of these issues in advance. His post was more about prosecutors being discourteous, but I am more interested in the effect on defense lawyers and some major problems with the system in general. There was a time in my career when I took appointed cases and carried a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Judges, Practice in General, Prosecutors, public defenders

Except For That, Of Course

The silliest part of any guilty plea is the part when the court asks if anyone has threatened or coerced the defendant into pleading guilty. People are inclined to say no when it’s obviously the answer the judge wants to hear no matter what the circumstances happen to be. The desire to please is intense enough when the person asking the incriminating question has a badge and gun, but it’s even more powerful when the person asking sits high above the fray wearing a robe and keeps getting called “your honor” by everyone in the room. Several of my clients have given an admirable hell yes and briefly tried to elaborate before being cut off by others suddenly made aware of the absurdity of the question. I respect the clients … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts

Jerk or Chump?

I trust very few people to do their jobs competently; it’s the product of a wealth of experience watching people suck at the simplest of things. Indeed, it is often the simplest things that people mess up the most, and of all those things, few are simpler than doing what you say you’re going to do. If you don’t want to do it, don’t say you’ll do it. If you say you’ll do it, then go ahead and do it. It’s so easy, but it’s practically impossible for many. A few months ago, I was dealing with a prosecutor for the first time, and she said she would run something by her boss and get back to me. As time passed, I figured she had either … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Practice in General, Prosecutors

The Shame of Doing Wrong

If you’re ashamed of what you’re doing, maybe you should reconsider doing it. It seems simple enough, right? I frequently deal with people who have serious substance abuse and mental health issues. They are usually fairly aware of their problems. Although many are incapable of fixing them, I see complete denial less often than I would have expected before I began practicing law. The shameful rock bottom moment, typically the moment that led to them needing my services, is the sort of thing that makes most of them shudder. The embarrassment can help commit them to change, but it can also depress them, leading right back onto the destructive path that caused the problem in the first place. Whether awareness of the need to change … Read entire article »

Filed under: Prosecutors

Trusting Judges

For most felony offenses in Arizona, a person sentenced to a term of probation can be ordered to serve up to a year in the county jail. When prosecutors intend to seek jail time as a condition of probation, they usually say so up front. If it’s a guarantee, the plea will say “defendant shall serve…” before describing the amount of time, whether it’s a deferred term, and whether the defendant gets credit for time served. In other instances where jail is possible, the plea will say “the state anticipates requesting an initial jail term” or something along those lines. Occasionally, the prosecutor changes his or her mind between plea and sentencing. They will also say so if that’s the case. Other times, the probation department’s presentence report … Read entire article »

Filed under: Judges

Demanding Lies

Starting out, I had a long talk with a public defender who’d been fighting the good fight for decades. Here’s a quote I won’t forget: Nobody is too innocent for a misdemeanor. I heard this one from someone else I still respect: Nobody is too innocent for unsupervised probation. Neither person would ever shy away from a fight or do anything to force a client into something they didn’t want to do, so it wasn’t advice from plea salesmen who built their reputations on fancy billboards. Taking them as nuggets of wisdom forged from experience, they’re important lessons about human nature and the nature of the beast we call the criminal “justice” system. Most defense attorneys don’t trust the system. Our clients often don’t trust it too, but it’s usually just the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Prosecutors

Doing It All

I had a long weekend of work, but I’m ready for trial. The work I completed over the weekend wasn’t trial prep, though, because that was done long ago. I spent the weekend tying up loose ends. Trial is like a really shitty vacation. You have to make sure all your ducks are in a row so you can take some time off. Instead of dipping your toes in the water and watching a sunset with your adult beverage of choice in hand, however, you get to endure grueling combat all day every day for days on end. It’s a break from your daily stress during which you forget about your normal troubles in favor of some more pressing troubles. Did I mention that … Read entire article »

Filed under: lawyers, Trial

The Way They Think

I know a lot of nice prosecutors. I know prosecutors who care about justice. A few of them care about people too. Unfortunately, some of the other prosecutors I know don’t care much about anything except for hurting criminal defendants. The legislature gives them permission to ruin lives, and they relish the opportunity. One of my clients is charged with first-time DUI, and she has a very long history of medical problems. She’s had five back surgeries in the time I’ve represented her. She has to take special precautions just to make it through a day of work, and she sees doctors pretty much constantly. Spending a lot of time in jail would be disastrous for her health. I obtained documentation from medical … Read entire article »

Filed under: DUI, Prosecutors

An Unfortunate Correlation

Prosecutors vary. They vary in intelligence. They vary in competence. Most importantly (to the majority of criminal defendants, at least), they vary in harshness. Some prosecutors demand blood for the tiniest little mistakes. Others are capable of feeling compassion. I can usually strike a judge and occasionally even change the venue altogether, but I’m pretty much stuck with the prosecutor who’s assigned. That can sometimes be a major determining factor if not the major determining factor in the outcome of a case. I just finished handling a somewhat complex drug case in a rural county. The first prosecutor on the case was a very competent younger attorney. She knew the case like the back of her hand and considered it a serious … Read entire article »

Filed under: Prosecutors

It Goes Both Ways

I was in trial this past week, so I didn’t have a lot of free time. I found myself working into the night to deal with things I couldn’t address during the day. I only had enough time during breaks to respond to the things that seemed the most urgent. One of those things was a frantic message from a prosecutor. She wanted me to call her back as soon as possible. I recently tried a case with her because the state wouldn’t budge one bit on the plea. My client faces the exact same thing right now having lost at trial that he would’ve gotten had he accepted the state’s offer. After three motions, a long evidentiary hearing, various oral arguments, a bunch of … Read entire article »

Filed under: DUI, Trial

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