Interviewer: What percentage of cases will go to trial versus settle or early on?
Eric: I find that that a very small percentage of cases go to trial. This is because we are very successful at negotiating very reasonable and amicable settlements for our cases. Many times, we are able to convince the prosecution that this is not a case that they should try, it’s better for the defense.
Only 10% of Cases Go to Trial
Usually I would say that 10% cases overall in the system go to trial. I think the system is designed to try and figure out how to resolve cases rather than go to trial on cases. That’s usually works to our clients benefit if we can resolve the case because then everybody knows what the outcome is.
If you go to a trial, the outcome is no longer in anybody’s control. It’s now in the hands of a jury as opposed to working out a settlement. Everybody knows what the terms are and everybody knows what the outcome is.
Many People Are Overcharged by the Police
Interviewer: Do you find that people overcharged by the police and typically throughout a case, the charges are whittled down?
It is not Uncommon for an Individual to Face 10 or More Charges from One Traffic Stop
Eric: I find that they usually overcharge. This is especially true in the numbers of charges in the driving while intoxicated cases. Not only are they charged with driving while intoxicated, but they’ll have two or three charges of driving while intoxicated for the same event and all the traffic violations and all the equipment violations. You can go in and having 10, 12, 16 charges against a person for one traffic stop.
The same premise applies with a regular criminal case and on an assault case. You can have weapons charges and assault charges. I find that the police department and the government and the district attorney’s offices, they tend to think, “Let’s throw everything out there and see what we can get as opposed to fishing with one hook.”
During the course of defending the case, our job is to point it out to the prosecution and we get charges dismissed along the way. If not, as the case goes on it usually is reduced down to the only appropriate charges.
Is Overcharging a Strong Arm Tactic Used by the Police and District Attorneys?
Overcharging is absolutely a strong arm tactic by the police and by the district attorney’s office. If they could charge you with five charges as supposed to one charge, it makes the person feel more scared, “Oh, I could get convicted of all of these charges. It’s hard to beat everything.”
It absolutely is one example where the government uses its resources to treat people unfairly. That’s all the more reason you should hire a lawyer who has a lot of experience and can go through the garbage and realize what the real case is.
What Are the Different Penalties for Violations, Misdemeanors and Felonies?
Interviewer: Tell me the difference between the violation and the misdemeanor and a felony charge and the potential penalties for each.
Eric: A violation, if you picture a wedding cake, you have different levels. The violations are offenses that are not crimes. They do not go on a criminal record. Traffic tickets are the first and easiest thing to come across as a violation. There are some penal or offenses that are violations also and they are punishable by a fine of up to $500. Some could have a jail sentence of up to 15 days and be resolved.
Violations on a Criminal Record May Be Sealed after 30 Days
Usually a conviction on a violation, the criminal record of it would be eligible, under the statute, to be sealed after 30 days. People who cannot hire lawyers seem to be talked into the DA strong arms them saying, “We’ll offer you a violation but waive your rights to have it sealed.” Although it doesn’t leave a criminal record, there’s now a blemish on the record.
Some Misdemeanor Offenses Can Entail a Jail Sentence
The next step is up a misdemeanour. Those are cases that somebody could go to jail, not that they will, but the possibility exists of going to jail for up to one year. That can also entail up to a thousand dollar fine as well as up to one year in jail, up to three years of probation or a combination of any one, two or three of those. You can pay fines, go to jail for a period of time or have probation.
Violations and Misdemeanors Are Eligible for a Conditional Discharge
With traffic violations and misdemeanors, you are always eligible for what’s called a conditional discharge. That would be none of the above consequences. A judge can say, “Don’t do it again.” And there are no fines, just mandatory surcharges.
There Are A-Misdemeanors and B-Misdemeanors; Felonies Are Offenses Subject to More than One Year in Jail
There are two types of misdemeanors, there’s an A misdemeanor and a B misdemeanor. Anything that’s punishable by more than one year in jail becomes a felony. There are five levels of felonies, a through e felonies and they all range in the way of how much a potential fine could be and how long a potential jail sentence could be.
Eligibility could be more than one year in jail but it doesn’t mean that they will have a year sentence imposed on them. Felonies are five years of probation instead of three years of probation. As with misdemeanors, a combination sentence is available to people. It’s all different sentences or sanctions that can be imposed on people depending on what the charges are and what the ultimate finding is.
By Eric Sachs