Thursday, July 11, 2013

Time to start playing hide the ball...

I am extremely annoyed with a case I am dealing with currently. I found out today just how differently I have to deal with the prosecutors in my current county from the prosecutors in my old county.

My general approach to lawyering/plea negotiations has been to be as honest & forthright as possible, w/o revealing any client confidences. I expect prosecutors to do that with me so I do that on my side of things. But apparently this general policy is not one that I should continue in this new county, since it's now being used to the detriment of my client, something that has never happened before on any of my cases.

Here's the sitch: the prosecutor made an offer on this case which would have sent my client to prison for 33 months, according to what the prosecutor had determined. I contacted the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to ask about the potential sentence bc I don't always understand everything in the Guidelines. After talking to the woman there, she informed me that the prosecutor's determination was incorrect & the sentence should actually be 21 months.

I explained what I had learned to the prosecutor and explained that the sentence would actually be 21 months. I assumed (erroneously) that it would be best if we were all working with the right information.

But the prosecutor responded that 21 months wasn't enough in his opinion, so he then changed the offer so that my client would be looking @ 41 months in prison! What a total crock! And a BS move, quite frankly. Basically, if I had not said anything & my client had taken the deal, @ sentencing I could have let the court know it should be a 21 month sentence & the state would have been unable to retract the offer.

So here is what I learned: lie, hide information, & exploit the prosecution's mistakes all the time. Don't treat them w/ enough professional courtesy to make sure that we are all working w/ the same information. Trick them into thinking we are doing one thing in our plea agreements & secretly do something else.

I don't like to practice that way at all. I think it just fosters distrust & makes it harder to resolve cases, but apparently I have no choice. If being honest & treating the other side w/ enough respect to make sure we have the right information is going to hurt my client, then I can't do that stuff anymore. I guess I have to start playing hide the ball.
I am not happy about this. I think it was a BS move to change the plea offer & I think it's stupid I have to be sneaky now. But it is what it is, I guess.

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