Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happenings in Court

A few weeks back I was in a local municipal court.  It is a Court that is known to have tough negotiating prosecutors, especially as of late for some reasons.  It also has a pretty interesting negotiating system.  Although you can negotiate prior to your court date by finding out who the Prosecutor assigned to the case is.  I would say that many attorneys choose not to do this, and instead negotiate the day of court.  So often times when you're in line to speak with the Prosecutors, you will over hear a discussion between a prosecutor and a DUI attorney.

So as I said before I was in court waiting to chat with the Prosecutor about a continuance request.  I happened to be right behind another attorney who was trying to negotiate with the Prosecutor.  And from what I gather they had spoken before, so the defense attorney had made their pitch to the prosecutor.  But I found it interesting nonetheless, especially the prosecutors response.

I guess the client of the other defense attorney was charged with a DUI.  This client was some kind of ship captain.  I'm not sure what exactly his job was, or who the employer was, but he was a shipping captain.  For those that don't know an individual charged with a DUI who has such a profession can face very severe consequences including but not limited to a loss of their job.  This particular defense attorney obviously was well aware of this.

From what I gather this was a pretty run of the mill DUI.  It was a relative low BAC at .13, there was no accident, the client was cooperative with the arresting officers, and he didn't have any prior criminal history.  What the defense attorney was proposing was an amendment down to reckless endangerment, and the kicker was the client was willing to do 90 days in jail.  Let me repeat that.  90 days in jail.

To me this seemed more than reasonable.  In fact it was astonishing.  How many people would be willing to go to jail for 90 days on a first offense DUI.  Heck even if the guy went to trial and was convicted he would only get 1 day.  In addition to that he was willing to do the ignition interlock requirement of 1 year, he was willing to pay the fine that comes with the DUI.  He basically was willing to do all the penalties and consequences that come with a DUI,  He just could not have a DUI on his record.

So what was the Prosecutors response.  No, we want the DUI conviction on the record.  And their sentence recommendation was for a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 day in jail.  I'm sorry when I heard this response on was completely floored.  There was a perfect example of why prosecutors just don't get it.  Especially at the misdemeanor level where often times this is their first job and they generally are younger with little to no life experience.  Rather than give the guy a break on the conviction, and have him do 90 days for a first offense DUI as a penalty.  In my opinion they would rather be spiteful and ruin this man's life.  As a Seattle DUI Attorney I just do not understand this line of thinking.

I just figure if I was a prosecutor and some defense attorney came to me for negotiation.  I would be probably pretty fair but stern.  In exchange for plea deal reductions I would negotiate jail or a significant amount of community service hours, or a hefty fine on a first offense.  Give the person the benefit of the doubt without screwing up their entire life.  Then if they came back on another charge they you can put the hammer down.

But far too often as a Seattle DUI Lawyer, the majority of prosecutors I see do not do this.  It really is a shame because it bogs down the judicial system with needless trials, but at the same time ruins peoples lives that don't need to be ruined.  Everyone makes a mistake.  If it is not too serious, there was no accident, not a high breath test, and the person was polite and cooperative with the arresting officer then why not.  I really feel bad for this particular guy, because he really was taking responsibility for his actions and was trying to be accountable.  It's a shame he will most likely lose his job, and ruin his life because of the decision of this prosecutor.

Matthew A. Leyba is a Seattle DUI Attorney in Western WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other serious traffic offenses.  If you have been arrested for a DUI contact our office for a free consultation.  

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