Will Courts Be Lenient On Someone With A Clean Record?
April 14, 2016
Do Courts Have Mercy On People If They Have A Clean Record?
Maybe, I don’t know: I need more information. One things is clear though – not if they are unrepresented. People make legal mistakes and don’t know until it’s too late. That’s how courthouse surprise happens.
Many of my clients started out unrepresented, but then quickly realized that they were out of their depth. They are the ones that plead not guilty at their first court date, and walk out of the courtroom having lost their right to a jury trial. The best part is, they don’t even know they made an error until I point it out! Their court paper says “Judge Pretrial” or something similar. I’ve had to undo this legal error hundreds of times.
Background Information is Important
A good attorney would always like to know all of the background information on their client because it may possibly impact the outcome in a case. Generally speaking, it is important to remember that out of touch politicians in the state capital have rigged much of the law to take discretion away from judges who are imposing sentences. Frankly, these out of touch politicians don’t care about how someone will get to work or take care of their children if they are in jail for an unexpected 30 days or whether they lose their job. They care about getting reelected.
It also should be noted that some, but not all, of Florida’s State attorneys fit in that out of touch politician category. Florida has 67 counties divided into 20 judicial circuits, which means they have 20 elected state attorneys and none of them are running a political campaign on a platform of, “I will be smart about the problem of crime.”
They are not running those types of political campaigns at all. They are running campaigns along the lines of, “I’ll be tougher on crime than anybody before me.”
How Does the Judge Make the Decision?
At the end of the day, when it comes to sentencing, the judge is going to listen to the defense’s recommendations and the prosecutor’s recommendation. Having a relationship with that prosecutor, with that judge, can be very important because knowing how they think is part of knowing how to persuade them. An unrepresented person does not know what to say, how to negotiate a plea bargain and has never tried a criminal case.
However, there are some things that are negotiable and there are some things that are not negotiable. For example, prior record is a huge deal in Florida, even if something happened years and years before. If someone has a second offense within five years of any prior DUI, then they are to serve a minimum of ten days in jail without any discretion to override it by the judge. The problem is, that ten days is a minimum – and many prosecutors ask for more than the minimum. Somewhere in Florida today, someone went to court unrepresented, threw themselves on the mercy of the court without a bit of case investigation, expected the minimum of ten days, but got sentenced to a lot more. But most people aren’t hanging out at the courthouse watching court. They only know what their friends, family and the Internet has told them. When they get sixty, ninety or one hundred and eighty days, they are devastated. They were prepared for ten days in jail, but the additional time causes many to lose their home, vehicle, job, business and family.
If a person calls an attorney and isn’t sure about hiring a lawyer, the attorney should caution them about courthouse surprise. It’s a very common scenario where people want to represent themselves, throw themselves on the mercy of the court, apologize, and say they will never do it again. Once the plea is entered it’s too late to take it back. They may then find out the courthouse surprise, that he or she is going to jail right then.
There was a case where a woman was representing herself in court. The woman, who looked like a professional or a businesswoman, was sentenced to 60 days in jail and that was simply for not having a valid driver’s license. She was given the maximum sentence. In DUI cases, such a disaster can range from six months to a lifetime depending upon the type of DUI, prior record, whether or not there are injuries, whether or not there is a death. So, no one should ever throw themselves on the mercy of the court without legal representation because they don’t know what they don’t know.
If you Need Information On Whether Courts Will Be Lenient On Someone With A Clean Record Before They Got Involved In A DUI, call the criminal defense office of Stephen G. Cobb for a FREE Initial Consultation at (850) 423-0035 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.
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