Brown & Little, P.L.C. » Entries tagged with "prison"

Sucks Not Eating That Cake, Huh?

I covered a pretty amazing hearing recently. It wasn’t amazing because of anything I did. It was amazing because it perfectly showcased the disastrous impact of mandatory sentencing rules and a culture of punishment and cruelty not just on defendants, but on victims. The client was accused of taking money from a family trust. He was left out of it, but his cousins weren’t. He allegedly drained the trust using forged checks. At his first sentencing, the victims said how they weren’t going to get to go to college. He took their college fund, apparently, and now they had to take out student loans. At least one of them wanted to punish him with a long prison sentence. All of them wanted him to repay … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Prosecutors, Victim's Rights

Why The Work Never Ends

I started work today with the best intentions. I had a list of what I had to accomplish along with a realistic plan of attack. After I sat down and finished my first task, a call came in: CLIENT: A detective came to see me and I pled guilty ME: What? CLIENT: It’s an emergency. I pled guilty. ME: You mean you confessed? CLIENT: Yeah, I pled guilty. I told him all the other stuff I did. ME: Did you say you had a lawyer? CLIENT: No, I just talked to him. He read me my rights and stuff. ME: Why did you talk to him? CLIENT: I don’t know. We’re gonna need to add the new charges to the current plea. ME: What new charges are there going to be? CLIENT: It doesn’t matter, … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients

They Just Want Your Money

On Monday, I got to hear an elderly gentleman get sentenced for a first-time super extreme DUI (one where his blood alcohol concentration was over 0.20%) as I waited for the court to call my client’s case. He was so nervous he was shaking, and at one point, he begged the judge to not send him to jail. She told him something about how she would have to send her own brother for jail for that charge because the legislature set a mandatory minimum sentence. She also added a little comment about seeing people with a third of his BAC being involved in fatal collisions. How that could be the case seeing how she’s a misdemeanor court judge and doesn’t seem the type to go to … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants

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

Real Change

For the first time in a little while, I left court this morning feeling like everything turned out okay. The whole experience was quite surprising, honestly. A lot of things could have gone wrong, but they didn’t. In most cases, even a positive result has some major downside. Not today. My client had absconded from probation long ago. He left the state and started a new life. There was nothing for him in Arizona but bad memories and worse influences. The new life he created for himself, on the other hand, was filled with stability, good people, and direction. He had been sober for a long time. He had a job and a support network. He finally knew what he wanted … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, 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

A Fundamental Shift

A particular way of thinking dominates among people inside the justice system. The idea is that the state accomplishes the noble goals of the people, and wrongdoers deserve the punishments the legislature created for doing the things the legislature told them not to do independently of the state’s wrongdoing in catching and prosecuting them. The system’s objectives are good and pure and worthy even when its agents and their methods are questionable. That view is apparent in courts everywhere. When prosecutors erroneously ask for dismissals with prejudice instead of without prejudice, courts quietly correct the mistake because defendants shouldn’t benefit from such things. Most of them did it, after all, and the laws say they shouldn’t have. Even when a prosecutor willfully conceals evidence, courts are … Read entire article »

Filed under: Government Rants

Great Expectations

Part of my fee agreement explains how my fee in each case is based in part on a variety of considerations, one of which is the expectations of the client. Many of the other listed factors, like the urgency of the matter and the necessity of declining other work, once seemed far more important to me. Over time, they have come to pale in comparison with client expectations. For the client who wants to walk, beating the main charge but being convicted of a lesser is a massive disappointment. It doesn’t matter if they’re avoiding a murder conviction in favor of a lesser charge or just beating the part of the DUI charge that would have made it a felony. Any conviction is a failure. It’s the same … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients

Looking for a Lesson

You’ve probably heard about what happened with Michael Marin. It’s not every day that a Mormon grandfather and amateur pilot, a former Wall Street trader, Japanese business executive, and graduate of Yale Law School who also climbed Mount Everest and collected works by Picasso, supposedly kills himself in court with a poisoned pill after being convicted of arson for burning down his mansion and narrowly escaping in a scuba suit. You can find more background here if you’re interested. On top of its general bizarreness, the whole thing brings up some fascinating issues. Michael Marin presumably killed himself because of the verdict. Had the jury found him not guilty, he would have probably gone out to celebrate. Although I have not looked into the specifics of … Read entire article »

Filed under: Prosecutors

DUI, What Should Be a Lesser Included Offense, and a Common Trial Defense

I previously wrote about the fact that, in Arizona, you do not have to be driving to get a DUI. I’ve also written quite a few times in the past about lesser-included offenses and Arizona courts’ unwillingness to give juries the option of finding defendants guilty of less serious but potentially more appropriate offenses at trial. A fairly old opinion from the Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division One, combines those two things in a way that might be pretty amusing if it weren’t so scary. In the opinion, the court said that aggravated DUI, which means DUI with a suspended license, does not contain the lesser offense of driving on a suspended license. The court’s reasoning was that aggravated DUI does not require proof of actual driving … Read entire article »

Filed under: DUI

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