14 September 2007

Email Request for Help

This request was in my email when I opened it this morn:
Hi Ken

I came across your blog today in researching reckless driving, specifically the charge: 46.2-852.

Do you know how I can research case law on overturned or dismissed reckless driving cases for this Virginia code section? What I did was not reckless driving and I would like to argue this myself. I just don't have the funds to pay for an attorney to defend me on this.

I know I want to read Powers v Commonwealth and Kennedy v Commonwealth, but do you know how I can find more cases to help me build a defense?


John Smith
My answer:


Please be advised that I am now a prosecutor and you should take anything I take with a grain of salt. Also, (I have to say this) THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE, I have neither done any research nor spoken to anyone about the facts which will be determinative in your case. This is entirely off the cuff and you may want to ask a defense lawyer before you proceed.

That said, if your county has one, I'd advise going to your local law library and getting a look at one of the books containing statutes (or maybe a law school library). They usually have short synopses of cases after the statute which give information about how courts have done things in the past. If you don't have a law library near, you might look through Virginia's free listing of cases (which can be found thru FindLaw) or you might try one of the online legal services. WestLaw and LexisNexis are probably too expensive (might as well hire a lawyer) but I think that a service like Versuslaw might be affordable (the only reason I site it by name is because I used it when in private practice, there are others which might be better, I don't know); you would probably have to search for "reckless driving" and spend time slogging through a whole bunch of cases. Personally, I would recommend going to a library if at all possible.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may want to ask for a court appointed attorney. The advantage there is that he knows the law and the judge and the prosecutor. He'll know if the argument you want to make has been tried 17 times and shot down by the judge each and every time, or if the judge has kicked out 3 cases in the last week for the exact same reason as you think yours should be thrown out. That kind of knowledge can't be gained through research, you just have to be the person who's in court every day.


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