Clients, here’s how prosecutors view your case

Tallahassee criminal defense attorneyThis article will help clients understand what I deal with when working with prosecutors.

Stress and fear usually envelop anyone charged with having committed a crime.  The frantic search for hope in a dire situation often drives how someone new to the criminal system seeks answers and relief.  I certainly understand that, and offer these words to those folks – so they understand what we defense attorneys are working with (and, often, against).

First, understand that the prosecutor is an elected official, and his or her employees are representative of the office.  All decision are subject to public scrutiny.  All records are public.  In other words, politics is a part of the process.  Like it or not.  So prosecutors always have in mind whether there will be any negative repercussions about how they handle a case.  No one wants to get called to the boss’ office, nor see their name in the paper regarding a case.

Second, understand that the prosecutor is not in the business of dismissing charges.  To the contrary, the job is to prosecute allegations of crime.  Please do not ask me if your case “can just be dropped”, or if I can tell the prosecutor that you are a good person and this is your first arrest and see if he or she will just let it go.  It does not happen that way, sorry.  Your good history and character are a part of my presentation, but will not magically impress a prosecutor to simply ignore a police report with your name on it.

Please also understand that the prosecutor may not immediately know what has happened to you.  From the time you are arrested until the paperwork makes its way to the State Attorneys’ Office (SAO) could be days, even weeks.  While I jump on cases right away, it takes time for the prosecutor to get a file and get up to speed.

Next, understand that whatever I tell prosecutors about the case will be checked out.  Trust but verify, as it is said.  Most prosecutors will give credit to what another professional tells him or her (except one I know in Gadsden County, who told me he doesn’t believe anything that comes from a defense attorney – real nice).  But as they are bureaucrats and at-will employees of an elected official, they have to confirm things before decisions are made.

Prosecutors have many, many cases, and yours is probably not that important to them.  What that means is that I often have to make several attempts at contact to get an answer to my questions and to get you information about resolving your case (check this article I wrote years ago, admonishing prosecutors to return phone calls).   You must be patient – I keep a running list of which prosecutors I am currently waiting to hear from so I can follow up.  

Finally, please undestrand that resolving a criminal case necessarily involves a penance . . . a punishment.  It is not intended to be comfortable nor convenient for a defendant.  Prosecutors generally do not care that you have to take time off from work, or attend meetings or do community service hours at night, or that you have to pay fines and court costs.  So demanding that I ask a prosecutor to amend a sentence because its cramping your style is senseless.

So, all that to say that negotiating with a prosecutor is a very difficult thing to do.  The process is not the traditional postitionally-based negotiation, in that most prosecutors do not take the position that they have something to lose.  That’s a whole different blog post, actually!  As a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney, I work to present creative resolutions in a professionally manner.  If you are charged with a crime in Leon County, we will work past these issues and do our best to “get to yes” as we have for many other clients over the years.

The longest day of your life: deciding whether to enter a plea

Take a look at this article:  Man gets 40 years in jail after rejecting plea deal that would have freed him immediately.

Look at this man… Look at his eyes.  He could have pled to time-served and gone home, “hence without day” as they say.  Instead, he went to trial…

…and was convicted…

… and got 40 years.  In prison. The pen. The big house.  That’s a life sentence, folks.

When you enter a plea, you’re asking for mercy… If you go to trial, you may be asking for justice.  At least, that’s what an old trial judge, J. Rogers Padgett of Tampa, used to say.  That guy is a wealth of courtroom wisdom.

Making the decision as to how to resolve a case is hard.  No one wants go to jail or prison.  Well, most normal people don’t – some would rather do that than serve probation, for various reasons.  How does one ever decide to voluntarily agree to go to prison?

My suggestions to clients are:

  1. Know what the worst-case scenario is (what’s the maximum sentence possible?).
  2. Know what your judge does in cases like yours.  If everyone similarly situated to you gets ____, then more than likely you’ll get that, too.
  3. Look objectively at your case. If you did not commit the crime, or the government can’t prove it, absolutely consider going to trial with a great trial lawyer.  If you have some liability, be realistic about it and think about how to lessen the impact of a sentence.  Remember, there are lots of people in prison on principle – the ones that relied on a false sense of something or other while not being real about their situation.  And finally….
  4. Think about this:  if you reject the plea, and get a harsher sentence – what would the longest day of your life be?  Upon going to jail or prison, what would the longest day of your life be while incarcerated??

Call for a consultation, come in and talk, and if you haven’t figured it out, I’ll tell you.  No one ever guesses correctly, and are surprised when I tell them.  Trust me, it will make a difference in your plea-vs-trial decision making.

Look at the man in the photo…look at his eyes. He has figured out the answer to my question.

Onward justice!

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You never know how your private personal information is being (mis)used

A TBO (click the photo for a link) article that shines a light on what those of us in the system already knew goes on.  Sometimes, those with access will pull your information for non-official reasons. Maybe just out of curiosity, but sometimes out of spite. It’s a scary thought!

Misuse of the DAVID (Florida driver database) is actionable – meaning the misuser can be sued. You can request a copy of your driving history, which will show what user accessed your information and when.

I’ll be ordering mine tomorrow. If you find that your driver information has been abused, contact us.  850-222-4529.