Some things you should know if you find yourself involved in the cops and robbers game and looking to find the right lawyer to defend you.
The Reality of Attorneys Promising to Dismiss Your Case:
Many attorneys advertise that they get your case dismissed. Let me tell you the truth. I have handled thousands of criminal cases as a defense attorney. Some cases I have gotten dismissed at the first hearing. Some cases I have gotten dismissed, later in the case, after a suppression motion (based on illegally obtained evidence) or after gathering evidence on the complaining witness. Some cases, I have gotten dismissed on day 1 of setting the case for jury trial. One case, I got dismissed during day one of jury selection with a prosecutor who claimed he had never lost a jury trial. The fact is, every case is different. No attorney can guarantee they can get your case dismissed. The reality is, if you have an excellent, bright, out of the box kind of attorney, they will, as Bruce Lee stated best, “flow like water” to fill every gap in the government’s case to feel out the weaknesses. Sometimes, the weakness in their case will cause them to dismiss the case. Other times, it will not. In that case, you have to fight for your dismissal in the form of “taking it to the mat.” By taking it to the mat, I am referring to taking your case to the jury much like a fighter goes inside the cage and takes the mat to fight his opponent. There is no magic or mystery. From the minute you are accused of a crime, the fight has begun. It’s up to you if you want to stand there and be knocked out or if you want to fight.
What About Settling Your Case:
When it comes to settling your case, there are two main things to consider: If the prosecutor offers you a deal you like, and you understand fully all the consequences, then it’s a no brainer. What happens, when the prosecutor makes an offer that is unacceptable. This often happens for a variety of reasons, including that the prosecutor does not know the mitigating circumstances in your case, the complaining witness is pressing the District Attorneys office or because the prosecutor is an uncaring beast. How I handle the negotiation is to assume the prosecutor is an ethical professional who is only interested in doing justice. I know and am friends with many such prosecutors. In that vein, I work tirelessly to prepare a mitigation plan to show the prosecutor why the offer should be changed. I have had many cases settle for conditionals or dispositions as a result of bringing mitigating facts to the attention of the prosecutor. Sometimes, I have used the influence of the judge to help convince the prosecutor to accept my settlement proposal. While some prosecutors are ethical and good human beings, others are feral beasts who, because they have a miserable personal life, use their position to hurt people. I have experience in dealing with both. The good ones, have become my personal friends. The feral abusive ones, need to be treated differently. Because they come from a bad place, no amount of kindness or toughness will work. They understand no kindness and like a junk yard dog, they like to fight and inflict pain. What do you do? By now you know what I’m going to say… You take it to the mat. Actually the choice is yours, you either take it to the mat or drink their poison (meaning take their offer).
Sometimes You Have to Take it to the Mat:
I am a true believer in our jury system. I see the right to a jury trial as the single most significant right we have in this country. Many innocent people find true justice when they have the opportunity to tell their story to the magnificent 12 (the jury). But just having the right to get in front of the jury does not guarantee justice for all. I’m sure we are all familiar with stories of innocent people who were wrongly convicted of a crime and served long prison sentences for a crime they did not commit. What a shameful tragedy. Many things contribute to make the perfect storm of injustice where an innocent person is convicted of a crime. One such factor, is an inexperienced or ineffective defense lawyer. Not all lawyers are the same. Not all lawyers are good in court. Just because you have a law degree and gray hair does not mean you have what it takes to tell your client’s story in an effective way to get justice for your client.
The hungrier, the smarter, the tougher fighter will win:
Make no mistake. A trial is a fight. You are in one corner, the prosecutor is in the other corner. When the bell rings, the fight is on. I don’t mean to scare you. But, too many people sugar coat things in our society. If you are sitting in the defendant’s chair, you don’t need sugar from your lawyer. Here is what you need to know. Not all criminal defense attorneys are able to handle a case from arraignment through trial. Some attorneys are comfortable settling cases. So, to start with, if you have decided to fight your case and take it to the mat, you need an attorney who is a trial attorney and who is comfortable doing jury trials.
Second, you need an attorney who is not afraid to challenge law enforcement or the prosecutors. If they are, they need to find a difference career. And not take your money and ruin you life. Newsflash, some attorneys’ goal in practicing law is to maximize their income. To me, this is disgusting. When I go to the doctor, I assume his main goal is to help me. I don’t even think about him trying to make money off of me. Of course, he/she should make a living. And a good living, as it takes a decade of sacrifice to get his/her medical degree. But in that moment when he is starring in my eyes and talking to me, I want it to be about me. I want to know he cares about me and is healing me. I hope to God, he doesn’t see dollar signs when he is looking at me. Same with a defense attorney. You don’t want to be a dollar sign. Your attorney has spent a lot of money and has sacrificed a lot to get that license and deserves to get paid his worth, but unless he cares about you, the license and training means nothing.
Third, you need an attorney who investigates, interviews witnesses, talks to experts, files motions to exclude illegally obtained evidence as is appropriate in your case. This is a no brainer.
Fourth, you need a lawyer who uses modern technology in court, and Westlaw or Lexis to get up to date legal research. If they don’t use Westlaw or Lexis, I would run. This may mean, they are stuck in the 70’s. The law changes often. A lawyer needs up to date access to the law which affects your case.
Fifth: They need to want to win. You may think that everyone wants to win. Sure. But, only people who work their butts off to win, win. Otherwise, they want to win but they lose. Take a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu match: two fighters are on the mat, one fighter trains daily, studies BJJ, and his life is BJJ. The other fighter was once a champion. He beat many people. But he doesn’t practice every day. BJJ is no longer his life. He hasn’t learned a new technique in 10 years. Both, of course, want to win. Sure. But who has worked hard enough to win that match? A jury trial is no different. There is no magic. No amount of gray hair alone can convince the jury that justice will be served by finding you not guilty. Just like in the ring, the hungrier, the smarter, the tougher fighter will win.
What is Tough Exactly?
Toughness is not being big and bad. It doesn’t mean having grey hair and yelling at people. Believe me. When it comes to the jury, they don’t care about a tough defense attorney yelling at them telling them what to do. They want to hear your story. They want to be moved by your story. They want to do the right thing. Toughness doesn’t mean being mean. It means being smart and relentless. It means caring and having a heart. It means being a fighter.
If you find yourself caught in the cops and robbers game, facing the cop, prosecutor or judge alone is not in your best interest. Police and prosecutors are trained professionals and will capitalize on every mistake you make and will certainly take advantage of your inexperience in court. There is a lot to know before you confront law enforcement/prosecution and the power and resources that they possess. Did you know fingerprint evidence alone is not necessarily enough for a criminal conviction? Did you know that a number of government drug testing labs have been are under investigation for tainting evidence and intentionally producing false positive results? If you are involved in a criminal prosecution, you need to question everything. It is most important to hire a competent defense lawyer to defend you. Without competent counsel and representation, you may be convicted of a crime you did not commit or you may face a harsher sentence then you deserve. So do your due diligence, pick right and kick butt.
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