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

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

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

The Decreasing Value Of Time

Ours is a world of easy answers. Type whatever you’re wondering into Google and look no further. The solution to your problem should be on the first page. Clicking onto the second is too much work, so the answer can’t be there. The easiest thing is always the right thing. For the tough problems, we have statistics to take moral and ethical judgment out of the equation. Things are bad in this world, and the numbers confirm it. Punish harshly and watch the numbers drop, they tell us. In reality, we’re watching the people who make the numbers feign a reduction to encourage us to quit thinking about whether what we’re doing collectively is right or wrong. Regardless, the numbers are what matter. A … Read entire article »

Filed under: DUI

A Well-Oiled Machine

I had one hearing yesterday afternoon, and it was in Pinal County. The Pinal County Superior Court is about an hour from my office, give or take a few minutes, but I find myself there quite a bit. It’s a fascinating place. Yesterday, it was a confusing, frustrating place. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office recently announced that attorneys would no longer be allowed to visit with their in-custody clients in the inmate holding area prior to court. The new policy is for security reasons, apparently, and it means that there’s no way to speak with a client prior to a hearing unless you go see him or her in jail. Seeing a client in jail is no small feat. If you want to do an “in-person” visit … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Prosecutors

Not Just Bad TV

Earlier in the week, I watched a TV program I wish I could un-watch. I fought watching it at the beginning. I made fun of it once it started. I even shielded my eyes and covered my ears when I couldn’t handle the stupidity any longer. For most of it, I was so uncomfortable I didn’t know if I could make it through the whole thing. I could feel my IQ dropping, but I couldn’t leave. Oh, the things we do for love! The show was Harry’s Law. The entire thing was terrible, but one part went beyond normal bad TV. The part that transcended the average prime time schlock in awfulness, unfortunately, was the primary storyline itself. The main character, a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Practice in General

No Harm in Asking, Right?

I have a little list of things to do and not do that I give people who are going to speak at or write letters for a client’s sentencing. I pieced it together from various sources and have continued to add to it for the past three years. Clients’ families, friends, and employers tend to find the guidance helpful, and I often provide it to other defense lawyers when they ask. It isn’t anything special, but it covers most of the bases. One section seems to hang people up more than anything else. It’s the section having to do with not making unreasonable requests, and it says this: Be realistic. Do not ask for probation if it is a prison plea. If the minimum prison term … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts

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

Should We Really Try More Cases?

I don’t completely agree that defense attorneys need to try more cases. I think a lot of defense attorneys are plea mills. Those attorneys definitely need to try more cases. However, trial is often too risky an option for many clients to seriously consider. I can’t blame them. In Arizona, mandatory minimums give the state an incredible amount of leverage. Someone accused of a dangerous offense or a dangerous crime against children is guaranteed a stiff prison sentence if they’re convicted. If you have any prior felony conviction and are accused of a felony offense not involving personal drug possession, you are not eligible for probation. You must go to prison if convicted. If you have two allegeable prior felonies and are accused … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General, Trial

Historical Priors

This seems like a simple concept, but there are a couple of nuances that regularly cause problems for attorneys. Having one or more historical priors has an incredible impact on sentencing, so I’m always surprised when lawyers don’t know how it works. Obviously, for a conviction to be an historical prior conviction, it must precede the conviction for the present offense. But what happens if the offense conduct of the so-called “prior” occurred after the conduct underlying the present offense? Interestingly, the type of offense involved in the “prior” is the determining factor. For the convictions listed in A.R.S. § 13-604(W)(2)(a) and (d), the only requirement with regard to ordering is that the conviction for the offense being used as an historical prior felony conviction precede the conviction from … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Statutes

Judge Shopping

Sometimes a judge will reject a plea because he or she feels it is too lenient. In fact, I can think of a few judges who do it frequently, and Arizona’s rules contain more than one provision that can be read to permit a change of judge in that situation. After a change of judge occurs, in most instances the plea will be changed and presented to a new judge. However, some judges are willing to accept the old plea without any changes at all. The judges who require some change to the plea are usually adamant about the fact that using the same plea again constitutes “judge shopping” and isn’t allowed. I’ve yet to figure out whether there is in fact a rule against it in … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General, Procedural Rules

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