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» Entries tagged with "Prosecutors"

Wasting Scottsdale’s Resources

If I lived in Scottsdale and paid city taxes, I’d be picketing the city attorney’s office right now. Some of their policies waste public money like it’s going out of style. I’ve complained before about prosecutors offering pleas with no benefit and defense attorneys enabling them by letting their clients plead, but Scottsdale elevates the non-bargain to an art. They’ve institutionalized extreme ignorance about the concept of bargaining altogether, and the results are amazing. If you’re charged with regular DUI and your blood alcohol falls in the uppermost part of the range, they offer you a plea to 3 days of jail. You’d get 1 day losing at trial. When they aren’t anti-negotiating, they typically offer you the same thing you’d get at trial. Across … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Prosecutors

How to Explain Relapse (Or Not)

I can’t count how many times I’ve stood next to someone being sentenced for personal drug possession. Some are just unlucky, ocassional users, but many more are addicts. They’ve tried to stop using meth or heroine or whatever other drug has them in its grip, but they can’t. They have periods of sobriety. They get their lives together, only to relapse when the next big tragedy comes along. When they’re at their worst, they always seem to find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I’ve noticed recovering addicts like to stress the importance of living one day at a time, of not letting setbacks cause them to give up and ruin all of their progress. Tomorrow’s a new day. Learn from today’s … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts

A Lie or Just Misleading?

In previous posts, I complained about having to trust prosecutors to set up victim interviews. In case you don’t feel like clicking on the links, I’ll summarize: in Arizona, defense attorneys have to ask the prosecutor to ask the victim if he or she wants to talk to them. As I discussed in those posts, there are a lot of problems with that. I recently encountered a situation that highlighted one big problem. The victim in one of my domestic violence cases has recanted. She is very eager to tell everyone, myself included, that she lied about what happened and wants the prosecutor to dismiss the charges. I know for a fact she told the prosecutor she wanted absolutely nothing to do with the case and … Read entire article »

Filed under: lawyers, Prosecutors, Victim's Rights

Inequality

Criminal defendants, especially ones who are in custody and hope to enter a plea, love comparing their cases with other criminal defendants’ cases. “My cellmate was facing the same charges and got a deal to probation. Why is my deal to prison time?” In most instances, they’re comparing apples to oranges. His cellmate didn’t have any priors and didn’t commit the offense while on probation. Of course, that’s not always the case. The disparity in treatment may be real, and the two defendants may be similarly situated. Differences could be caused by an ineffective defense attorney. The defendant may have a lazy public defender who sees no point in trying to get a better offer. He may have an appointed attorney who gets paid extra … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Prosecutors

Plea or Trial?

In Arizona, criminal defendants have no constitutional right to a plea agreement. The state does not have to offer one and can discontinue plea negotiations at will. If the state does offer one, it can take it off the table anytime before the court accepts it. That puts a lot of criminal defendants in a very difficult situation. Many defendants have no desire to go to trial. Some want to avoid trial at all costs. A big problem arises when a client doesn’t want to go to trial, has a weak case and a lot of risk, and feels they have a right to a plea they’re willing to accept. The problem is sentencing. Some Arizona crimes carry extreme sentences. If the state is alleging … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Practice in General

They Don't Mean It

I’ve been noticing a lot of signs in court buildings saying something to the effect of “if you are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, please be courteous and stay home.” I guess the whole swine flu scare is just now reaching the courts. The signs aren’t a bad idea, but I find them misleading. I doubt many judges would be willing to excuse a defendant from court because of flu-like symptoms. Last week I saw a tribal court judge issue a bench warrant for a terminally ill defendant who missed court because she was too sick to leave the hospital. Does a defendant with flu-like symptoms, someone not even verifiably suffering from a full-fledged case of the flu, really have a chance of having his or her absence excused? If … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants

Wasting Tax Dollars

I currently represent a client charged with possession of marijuana. By itself, that’s not unusual. What is unusual, however, is that the state claims he had weed in prison. He just finished serving his 18th year, and he’s got a little over 56 years left to go. He’s middle-aged. Why would the state choose to prosecute such a case? What else can they do to him? He’s going to enjoy his field trips to court. If he goes to trial, it’s going to feel good to wear street clothes and take the restraints off, even if it’s just for a little while. What kind of plea is a “lifer” going to want to take? The prosecutor knows all of this because I told him. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Prosecutors

Trusting Prosecutors

In Arizona, victims can choose whether or not to be interviewed by a defendant or his attorney. In pretty much every case, I send the prosecutor a letter asking whether the victim would be willing to submit to an interview. Victims almost never want to speak with me, so I’m forced to trust that the prosecutor actually asked them about consenting to an interview. I’m not a very trusting person, and I’m especially suspicious when there’s no way to verify what someone tells me. That’s the case with victim interviews. I bet a lot of prosecutors never bother asking victims, but in most instances, I have no way of proving it. I can’t later seek out the victim and find out. That would be a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Professionalism, Prosecutors, Trial, Victim's Rights

Accepting Responsibility Government-Style

I was really struck by this post, but not for the reason its author was struck by the Met Commissioner’s apology. I know it’s old, but I’ve been busy. Sorry. Anyway, maybe I’m misunderstanding him, but I’m surprised David Friedman would think that apology was in any way out of the ordinary. I’m pretty sure apologies from the government are usually meaningless. I imagine it’s the same everywhere. I’m not thinking as much about when wrongful government action kills people as I am about when the government wrongfully charges people. If you’re wrongfully charged, unless you spent a lot of time in prison or were on death row, “be thankful we eventually dismissed your case” is probably the best response you’re going to get. The state … Read entire article »

Filed under: Government Rants, Practice in General

Terrible Policies

I won’t name names here, but there is one prosecutor’s office in Arizona that has particularly rigid and often ridiculous office policies regarding plea bargains and a number of other important things that, in my opinion, should be left to the sound judgment of individual prosecutors. Some of the office’s policies are so draconian and inflexible that they are known by pretty much anyone who is even minimally involved with Arizona’s criminal justice system. I imagine 99% of people reading this post instantly knew which office I meant after reading the first sentence. Anyway, in two cases this year where I wrote the assigned prosecutors letters presenting overwhelming exculpatory evidence and requesting the cases be dismissed, I had conversations like this: Me: Have you looked over what I gave you? Them: … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General, Professionalism, Prosecutors

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