04 May 2004

Public Defender Dude describes a client jumping off a bridge and - per the norm - pointing the finger of blame at his lawyer the whole way down. Unfortunately, I think we've all been down this path more times than we care to remember.

While I too get the "a guy in my pod has exactly the same charges and his deal is much better" spiel, my situation is a little different from PDD's in that many of my problems are caused by the fact that in fairly close proximity I have run-down cities, where if it ain't violent or it doesn't include a large amount of drugs prosecutors and police just don't want to bother with it; suburbs, where the police and prosecution are so active that pretext stops and felony convictions based upon drug residue are the norm; and rural areas where the law doesn't look for trouble but reacts sternly to anything which comes its way (because Virginia's counties are small you could travel a hour and go through all three types of jurisdictions). I hear almost every week, "If this were in the City my attorney would have me out of jail already . . ." On occasion, I actually believe it - usually on minor, residue drug or marijuana cases which are being prosecuted to their fullest extent in the suburbs.

My problem is often that the Client has learned how to game the system in the City and thinks he can play the same game outside the City. I still remember the day a client told me he wanted 12 separate jury trials for 12 separate check felonies. Evidence was overwhelming against him and a jury in the suburbs would have given him a year or two (minimum) on each. Through a minor miracle, I talked him out of it and he took a single trial; the first jury hung but the second convicted him and gave him 4 years which was approximately what the sentencing guidelines would have been with a judge sentencing. What was he thinking? Although he never actually said it, the thought process is that docket in the City is overfull and the threat of 12 different trials is meant to bring the prosecutor to the table with a good deal (Client was a jailhouse lawyer too and that is so much fun to deal with). Things get even worse as you go out to the rural counties where the docket is even less clogged and the prosecutor has no real reason to make deals with you at all. Most of the time in those counties it's take the deal or go to trial and the "deal" is often a bare guilty plea. Heck, I've even heard a judge in a rural county tell another lawyer, "Mr. Smith, remember, it is the policy of this court that all 'not guilty' pleas in drug distribution cases go to jury trials" (understand that a jury cannot suspend all or part of the 5 year minimum when it sentences while a judge can if he sentences). Trying to bluff a prosecutor down in that sort of atmosphere or dicker with him when there is nothing new to offer from your side just ain't gonna work.

Oh well, I'm off to another fun-filled day.

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