22 June 2003

Highlights in a Criminal Lawyer's Week:

4 clients in General District Court. Two go as they typically would. One client has been in jail waiting for another State to extradite her for 30 days. Per normal experience, I tell her that it is 90% likely that she will be released (she asked). Of course, this is the one case wherein the judge actually grants the prosecution 2 more weeks (their excuse is that they had not moved to nolle prosequi a traffic ticket and maybe that's the reason the other State hasn't come). The client is very unhappy and will not talk to me after the hearing.

Later that day a client with two felonies and a misdemeanor has not been shipped to the courthouse by the jail. When I check, he has bonded out and never bothered to contact me. He never came to court so the judge issued a capias and set another date a month out (assuming he's picked up).

2 clients in General District Court in a smaller county. One case is dropped due to some technical difficulties in the prosecution's case. The other case is a DUI with an 80+ year old lady with a DUI charge and a civil charge of refusing to take the breath test. The Trooper tells me that she ran two cars off the road before she came to a stop and that she told him the reason she was driving was to go buy more beer. I work it out so that her DUI is dropped but she has to give up her license for a year. The most interesting part of the day was watching the prosecutor running between Circuit Court and General District Court (most of the time you only see defense attornies doing this). He's the single part-time prosecutor in the county and somehow the Judges scheduled both courts to be open at exactly the same time. While waiting for him to come to General District Court, I went over to the Circuit Court where they were holding pre-trials for what seemed like half the county (they had just busted a large, family drug ring). While sitting there I am assigned a client who is charged with 4 counts of distribution of cocaine. The judge made it very clear that if the charges were not handled thru guilty pleas there will be jury trials for the defendants.

A client who had been released after I got his felonies reduced to misdemeanors and the prosecutor to agree to time served (he had been off for several months being restored at the State mental institution) was required by the judge to get a HIV test and come back to court. On this date he failed to return for the second time and the judge issued a capias.

I go to the Richmond jail to visit a client and while I'm waiting prisoner after prisoner walks by asking if I'm a "paid lawyer" (not a Richmond Public Defender). I hand out about eight cards.

A client who had robbed the fast food resteraunt he worked at with a shotgun was sentenced to 22 years. This means the 18 year old kid will get out of jail when he is 40. The appeal will start shortly.

A client is in front of the General District Court on a capias for not coming to court on a prior date. When the client says he couldn't get a ride to the court on that day the judge asks why he didn't walk to court. After the judge is finished (but before sentencing), I point out that I live 5 minutes from where he lived and it takes me half a hour to drive to court on a highway that has a 65mph speed limit. The judge lectured me for pointing that out but he only sentenced the client to 5 days so it seemed to do some good.

Then I jump in my car and drive to another county's courthouse just in time for a client not to show up for his court date and get a capias. Then I have to handle a case wherein a merchant is using a criminal charge in order to get the prosecutor to be his bill collector. My client pays off the bounced check and the charge goes away.

Note: Every single one of the clients who did not show for court was a court appointed client; I find that about 10% of court appointed clients who are on the street do not show for court.


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