Monday, September 27, 2010

How can the district attorney bring MORE charges than what I was arrested for?

One of the most common frustrations we hear from clients facing criminal prosecution goes something like this: “The police only arrested me for one misdemeanor. When I showed up for my arraignment, I learned that the district attorney indicted me on that misdemeanor PLUS three felonies. How can they do that?”

Police officers investigate crimes, and when those police officers believe they have probable cause to do so, they arrest people for those crimes. But make no mistake about it; it is the job of the district attorney or prosecutor in the county where the alleged crime occurred to determine for which crimes, if any, the individual should be prosecuted. Often, a prosecutor will review the police reports and determine that there are additional or more severe charges to be prosecuted. On the other hand, a prosecutor may review a police report and determine that the police officer’s arrest was unwarranted or that if brought before a jury, they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of such charge so they dismiss or “no complaint” the charge(s).

It is important to understand that initially the police officer holds the power: to arrest you; to take you to jail; to initiate the charges; to set the stage for prosecutors and judges to ultimately determine custody release, plea offers, and sentence. 

But you’re not done there. And you shouldn’t be surprised to show up at an initial court appearance and discover that you are facing much more than initially thought.

Sound complicated? It is. That’s why, if facing criminal prosecution, you need an experienced criminal lawyer to help you navigate the system. A seasoned defense lawyer will have a solid understanding of A) who the assigned prosecutor is; B) whether that prosecutor typically overcharges or is a reasonable person to work with in terms of plea negotiations/settlement; C) any unique or novel defenses for those particular charges (e.g., an experienced drug lawyer will be up to speed on any and all drug-offense-related constitutional defenses, and an experienced DUI lawyer will recognize the unique scientific challenges to a DUI arrest).  

Remember, an arrest or indictment does not equal game over. It’s just the beginning.

But the best criminal attorney will always be your secret weapon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Women Sports Journalists in the Men's Locker Room

Before the “Jets' locker room incident”, Ines Sainz was not a familiar name to many of us.  Now, she seems to be the #1 topic of conversation around the water cooler.

For those of you hiding underneath a rock for the past week, Ines Sainz is a Mexican journalist who was recently the target of inappropriate and suggestive comments made by some New York Jets' football players while waiting to interview Jets' quarterback Mark Sanchez.  According to reports, while Sainz was waiting for the interview, several Jets players made inappropriate and suggestive comments to her.  Another journalist, who was present but not the target of the comments, complained about the behavior.  Since the complaint, the Jets have apologized, and just this week the NFL issued a memo with the following statement:  "Women are a common part of the sports media…By law, women must be granted the same rights to perform their jobs as men.  Please remember that women reporters are professionals and should be treated as such."  
Professional athletes and sports journalists alike have felt the need to comment on the incident.  Washington Redskins' running back Clinton Portis shared his view on air by saying,  "I think you put women reporters in the locker room in position to see guys walking around naked, and you sit in the locker room with 53 guys, and all of the sudden you see a nice woman in the locker room. I think men are going to tend to turn and look and want to say something to that woman."  Really, Clinton???     

It's no shocker that this recent incident has fueled many discussions, including debates on what constitutes sexual harassment, whether woman journalists should be allowed in men’s locker rooms, and whether male journalists are allowed in the women's locker room.  All very interesting issues that undoubtedly foster strong views.  DRG is interested in hearing your position on one or all of these topics.  We are looking for both male and female perspectives.  So, please do share! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

We've All Thought We've Known a Bride From Hell - Until You Meet this Bride From Hell

According to the sassy crime victim news correspondent diva, otherwise known as Nancy Grace, 23-year-old Jessica Vega pretended to have terminal cancer so she could attract sympathy from friends, relatives and strangers alike who stepped in to give her a dream wedding - FOR FREE! The rings, the wedding dress and the photos all were donated. The catering hall was heavily discounted, and the (awful) bride and her (dumb as a doornail) groom flew off to their honeymoon in Aruba with donated money, using plane tickets bought by well-wishers.

Apparently, the jig was up when Vega's rocket scientist husband, Michael O'Connell, finally realized that his long-time partner (and mother of his child) didn't appear to be ill.

According to various news sources, a criminal investigation is pending.

So our question to all you Matlock wannabes: What could she be charged with and/or convicted of?

Friday, September 3, 2010

“You have the right to remain silent.” For the love of god, REMAIN SILENT!

So here’s the thing: Police officers are very good at making you feel like they are your friend because they are trained to make you feel like they are your friend. And nine times out of ten, they get convictions because they convince people, like you, that they are their friend. They’re not. I don’t care how nice/sweet/innocent you are or how much money you have. Agreeing to give a statement to a police officer without an experienced criminal attorney present is the best chance you have of getting convicted of a crime.

Forget Law and Order. Forget Cold Case. Police officers and district attorneys get convictions as a result of statements made by defendants. It pains me to think of the number of cases I’ve handled where, without a defendant’s statement, the state would never have had enough evidence to convict.

When a police officer tells you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, they are doing so because the law requires them to do so. Not because they really want you to remain silent and/or call a defense attorney.

But I get it…it’s human nature to want to cooperate, be nice and go with the program. And when someone wearing a uniform and carrying a gun says something like “I’m sure once I hear your story, everything will be fine and you’ll get to go home,” your first reaction will be to just tell them your story.


What 99% of the country doesn’t know is that years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the police can legally be deceptive when questioning suspects. In other words, police officers are lawfully allowed to lie in order to get a confession.


“Your friend just gave you up” (untrue).

“You might as well come clean. We have evidence linking you to the crime” (untrue).

“I’m sure if you just tell me what happened things will go easier for you” (untrue).

The bottom line is that it is NEVER in your interest to give statements to the police. Even if you’re completely innocent. The right to an attorney is there for a reason. Use it. And yes, police officers will often say that if you just give them a statement you’ll most likely get to go home. Almost always not the case. If anything, giving a statement will lead to an indictment.

If you tell a cop that you want a lawyer, they must stop interrogating you. Regardless of circumstances, please, please, please take advantage of your constitutional rights and tell said cop that you want a lawyer and DON’T SAY ANYTHING until you’re criminal attorney arrives. In almost every instance, a good criminal attorney will tell you to say nothing.

And odds are, it will save your life.