Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Things Not to Say to Your Public Defender

Nftmonosyllabicers, I hope you are never in a position to need a public defender. If you are, that means you are 1) in trouble, whether you should be or not and 2) poor enough to qualify for a public defender. But, if you are ever in need of our services, please keep this list with you so you can easily access things you shouldn't say to your public defender.

1. "So, is this what you're doing until you get a real job?"  Last time I checked, I got a paycheck, benefits, and paid vacation, sick days, and holidays. Pretty sure this counts as a real job.

2. "So I know an attorney and when I talked to him, he told me to tell you that you should (file this motion, request this, do that)."  Oh really? That's fascinating. Go hire that guy, then.

3. "I'm going to have to get a lawyer for this/do I need to get a lawyer for this?"  When you filled out your application for a court-appointed lawyer, did you miss the part about the court appointing you a lawyer? What exactly do you think my role is? If you are confused about me being your lawyer, what do you think my job is?

4. "Marijuana should be legal." Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn't. But, it's not. So, just because you don't like the law doesn't mean that's going to get you out of the charges. Go talk to your legislators, get the law changed, and possess all the marijuana you want. In the meantime, it's still illegal.

5. "I know I did (whatever the charge is), but (someone else tangentially related to the case) did (crime), so why am I in trouble?"  Easy--you got caught.

6. "The cops didn't read me my rights, so this whole thing should be thrown out, right?" The caveat on this that while you should tell your public defender if the police didn't read you your rights, you should not finish that sentence with a assumption that that is an automatic get-out-of-jail-free card. That simply means whatever you said could be suppressed. That doesn't mean they don't have other evidence against you. It's not that easy.

7. "It's just a couple people saying I did that. They don't have any evidence. Let's go to trial." trial, when someone testifies, that counts as evidence. Evidence isn't just DNA and video and tangible things like that. So, when all 10 people testify that they saw you hit that guy with a bar stool, the State doesn't need to get surveillance camera footage from the bar.

8. "I need you to call me (this morning/this afternoon/today/before a certain time today/immediately/right away/before my court hearing today/etc.)."  Most public defenders are in court. A lot. Oftentimes, they are in court all day. If you call, it's extremely unlikely that you will get a phone call back the same day. If you know you won't be able to make it to court, don't call an hour before you're supposed to be there and expect your public defender to be in the office. They are already in court with other clients. When you call, just anticipate that it may take a few days to hear back and call ahead of your deadline.

9. "I have had (other public defender) before and they sucked!" Well, that may be true. But that's my co-worker who I probably get along with so I'm not going to bash them with you.

10. "You guys are bringing these charges against me/you're trying to say I violated probation/(any other statement that groups your public defender's purpose in with the state's or the court's purpose)."  Trust me, we're not connected. Yes  we are all parts of the justice system and yes, the government pays us our wages. But in Minnesota, the counties/cities pay the prosecutors and the state pays public defenders. We aren't working on their side. We don't share files (well the state technically gives us the contents of their files bc it's required by the discovery rules, but they don't share any notes or strategy with us). We aren't trying to get you.

11. "All public defenders are crap." Well, hi! It's nice to meet you too! That statement totally motivates me to work extra hard on your case...

12. "Are you a real attorney?" Yes. In what state is it not illegal to practice law without a law license (or in law school and being supervised by a licensed attorney)?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:24 AM

    So why would one not call all week long after you requested a call, has NEVER met with or spoken to you. Just sends in notice of appearance, not guilty and you wish to participate in discovery plus that you have no discovery. Oh, I was pulled over for an expired tag within the 10 day grace period, officer refused to tell me what I'd been pulled over for, was in my face because there was no place to pull over but a ditch or middle of the road, I drove about 400 ft to my driveway. Threw me against the car and searched all my pockets to find zero as I don't do drugs. Never told me why I was or that I was arrested... I told the pd prior to him filing notice of appearance please call me as I have a private attorney who's contacted the sao.... over a week no call. Please give me your insight? He knows nothing as he's never spoken to me.