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Clients, here’s how prosecutors view your case

This article will help clients understand what I deal with when working with prosecutors.

Stress and fear usually envelop anyone charged with having committed a crime. The frantic search for hope in a dire situation often drives how someone new to the criminal system seeks answers and relief. I certainly understand that, and offer these words to those folks – so they understand what we defense attorneys are working with (and, often, against).

First, understand that the prosecutor is an elected official, and his or her employees are representative of the office. All decision are subject to public scrutiny. All records are public. In other words, politics is a part of the process. Like it or not. So prosecutors always have in mind whether there will be any negative repercussions about how they handle a case. No one wants to get called to the boss’ office, nor see their name in the paper regarding a case.

Second, understand that the prosecutor is not in the business of dismissing charges. To the contrary, the job is to prosecute allegations of crime. Please do not ask me if your case “can just be dropped”, or if I can tell the prosecutor that you are a good person and this is your first arrest and see if he or she will just let it go. It does not happen that way, sorry. Your good history and character are a part of my presentation, but will not magically impress a prosecutor to simply ignore a police report with your name on it.

Please also understand that the prosecutor may not immediately know what has happened to you. From the time you are arrested until the paperwork makes its way to the State Attorneys’ Office (SAO) could be days, even weeks. While I jump on cases right away, it takes time for the prosecutor to get a file and get up to speed.

Next, understand that whatever I tell prosecutors about the case will be checked out. Trust but verify, as it is said. Most prosecutors will give credit to what another professional tells him or her (except one I know in Gadsden County, who told me he doesn’t believe anything that comes from a defense attorney – real nice). But as they are bureaucrats and at-will employees of an elected official, they have to confirm things before decisions are made.

Prosecutors have many, many cases, and yours is probably not that important to them. What that means is that I often have to make several attempts at contact to get an answer to my questions and to get you information about resolving your case (check this article I wrote years ago, admonishing prosecutors to return phone calls). You must be patient – I keep a running list of which prosecutors I am currently waiting to hear from so I can follow up.

Finally, please understand that resolving a criminal case necessarily involves a penance . . . a punishment. It is not intended to be comfortable nor convenient for a defendant. Prosecutors generally do not care that you have to take time off from work, or attend meetings or do community service hours at night, or that you have to pay fines and court costs. So demanding that I ask a prosecutor to amend a sentence because its cramping your style is senseless.

So, all that to say that negotiating with a prosecutor is a very difficult thing to do. The process is not the traditional positionally-based negotiation, in that most prosecutors do not take the position that they have something to lose. That’s a whole different blog post, actually! As a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney, I work to present creative resolutions in a professionally manner. If you are charged with a crime in Leon County, we will work past these issues and do our best to “get to yes” as we have for many other clients over the years.