What is it like to be a lawyer in court, and hire another lawyer to defend you?
Michael Prete, Fordham U. School of Law, JD, 2003;once got Kennedy to admit SCOTUS is political
Updated Fri March 29/19
NOTE: I ADDED MORE INFO WHEN I SAW HOW MANY VIEWS THIS WAS GETTING.
Very very frustrating. In my case, I was arrested by a notorious corrupt PD for a DUI, when I voluntarily walked back into the station after while I was backing up against one of their unmarked cars. I had just been in there speaking to three officers on behalf of my father who was very ill, for about 30 minutes. Not one of them said a word about my speech or that I had difficulty helping my father up and down the stairs, or anything relating to my ability to drive. But when I was backing out, my father started making a gagging sound, and I got distracted as I backed out and hit the side of one of their cars, I believe. I could’ve easily just driven away as it didn’t seem like there was any real damage at all, but I decided to do what I thought was the right thing, walked right back into the station, and filed a accident report. The desk sergeant seemed very annoyed to have to deal with such a trivial matter, But when I told him that I thought it was one of their cars I hit, he hurried to the back and came out with eight officers that looked like military cadets, walking 2 x 2, goose stepping, and ordered me to show them where I hit their car.
To this day I have not the slightest doubt that I could have totaled a dozen cars in the parking lot, as long as they were civilian cars and not theirs, and they could have cared less and none of this would have ever progressed and they never would have even cared to come outside with me. This was solely about them being pissed that I had damaged one of their vehicles, a brand new one at that, and my father even heard one of the officers quietly saying to another, while he was sitting in the waiting room and they didn’t know who he was, “we’ve got to find someway to nail this fucker for what he did to the car. “
The officer who was asking was the same one who I had been speaking to all of that time. I had the misfortune of hitting the passenger door handle, and it caused it to stick a little. Then he started to say that I was slurring my words and that I was walking unsteadily. I could go through the entire set of events which I have explained here before, but after giving me FIVE standard field sobriety tests, with about 20 or 25 officers watching me, causing just a little bit of anxiety, I finally made a mistake while walking the white line, and I was immediately arrested. My good friend with the NYPD, a detective, told me that once you pass the first SFST, And if they happen to take a BAC sample and it is under .08, that is the end of the investigation. He had never even heard of an officer doing more than one SFST to a suspect. And of course, why on earth would I go back into the station if I were impaired?
In law school, when you do moot court, you get to see the basic facts of a case, and choose which one you want to take and if you want to be the prosecutor or the defense attorney. If I had seen the facts of this case, I would have grabbed this case as quickly as possible to be the defense attorney, as I have left out so much, and only the most idiotic or corrupt jury on the planet could have found me guilty. There were only about 25 areas of reasonable doubt, and as I said, this department was notorious for its corruption. I was actually only there because my parents had sold their house on Long Island and were moving to another house, but it was not ready yet, so they leased a house in this Inc. city on Long Island, one of two that not only had a court for their own traffic violations but also for misdemeanors. Which meant that I would be tried in their court, not the Nassau county courthouse. This also meant that the jury pool would come from only that small city, and The public constantly dealing with the police, my attorney said despite how incredibly strong my case was, he was weary of trying this case in front of a jury that we’re all from there, as if they acquitted me, it would have been like them calling the officers who testified, liars. And would come back to haunt them. He had previously had a DUI case in that city and even though there was a recorded evidence of the officers being told by dispatch that someone had complained about someone speeding, the officers were hard to say that they weren’t going to bother chasing him, and then the dispatcher described the car and the fact that the driver was black, and at that point the officers are heard saying that, “OK, Let’s get this nigger.” And despite all of that evidence and that tape being played for the jury, they convicted the driver. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the driver was never proven to have had a BAC over. 08 as he refused to be tested. Based on principle.
This happened to me on January 1, 2014. I figured, as this was something I ever dealt as an attorney, that this was not much more than a traffic ticket and that this thing would be wrapped up in a couple of weeks. Try 14 months. The district attorney of the county ran on a zero tolerance policy for all Dui arrests. She is now in Congress where she belongs. Anyway, in any of the other 62 counties in New York State, on a first time case like this, with no aggravated circumstances and no one hurt and no real property damage, the district attorney Would immediately offer a plea bargain down to a traffic violation. Here, she offered me three years of probation if I pled guilty. The judge already realized what a farce this was, and told my attorney that he wouldn’t give me any punishment other than the required license suspension, if I did plead guilty. There was no way I was pleading guilty to anything. This was something you could not even make up.
But my attorney kept coming back to the point about the jury. So I agreed that we would go with a bench trial as I trusted the judge. The only problem was that the judge had a son on the police department who was involved in my case. So without even realizing it, he might be deferential towards the prosecution. And I did not want to ask for the other judge, as he was supposedly corrupt as well.
So month after month after month I would appear in court and every single month the case was continued pending my toxicology report. Bottom line is that it basically showed nothing. But the county DA was still instructing the local DA to prosecute with no plea offer. I was so exhausted after just six months of this insanity then I probably would have taken a plea down to a traffic violation at that point. Considering how screwed I was.
I’d been debating with my attorney for weeks, wanting him to file a motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause. This is where it got difficult between the two of us. He did not want to file this motion, and thought it would alienate the DA. I was certain that it was a solid motion and that I had found a precedent for it. Finally he agreed, and submitted the motion that I had mostly written. A few days later he called me and told me that the Nassau district attorneys office called him, and offered to reduce it to a traffic violation. Clearly they thought they would lose the motion, and were trying to salvage something.
Like I said, I was having such difficulty with the idea of pleading guilty to anything, even jaywalking. But this was going on for over a year now, and I couldn’t take it anymore, so I am eventually took the plea offer, with the main importance being that it would not be a crime, not a misdemeanor on my record. The violation however required that I do 50 hours of community service. Normally I couldn’t have cared less about something like that, as I have probably done thousands of hours of community service, especially when I was younger, purely voluntarily as my entire life, even as an attorney, has been in public service. I was told before agreeing to this is that the worst it would be would be a kin to something like picking up garbage along the highway. You actually have to pay to do community service, so I learned that the entire thing is basically a racket for free labor. You go to an outside company that pays the county with the contract to get the service, They pay the county because you pay them; the more hours the more money. I was told my assignment would be to help a Mosque Refurbish its center. I couldn’t care less that it was a Mosque, but how does a private religious institution have anything to do with the community at large. Anyway, I decided that I would just knock off the 50 hours in one week, but I got vertigo and then got the beginnings of a very serious neurological illness, The one that my father had been very ill from and has since passed away. I presented numerous doctors letters to the county that I could not do the work they were requiring, which incredibly turned out to be heavy construction work. But they told me that if I did not complete the assignment, they would revoke the deal and enter a guilty plea of a DUI misdemeanor on my record. So I had no choice but to work while I was extremely sick as I had a very short timeframe to complete it. Below is the onot picture I could post performing Community Service that I was told it would be no more physically intensive then picking up garbage with a stick. And, incredibly I was required to sign a letter that if I were injured while working I had no means to sue the county even if it was their fault, something that obviously never would have agreed to, except I had already agreed to the deal so it was too late.
But more to the point of your question, there were constant battles throughout the 14 months between my attorney and I over how to handle the case and over the law and it was a very difficult situation. But as they say, an man who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client.
Somewhere in the archives of questions I have answered regarding being falsely arrested, I give the full details are the absolute insanity that was involved with this arrest, one that every colleague of mine from law school, fellow attorneys, judges I know, and probably the most respected legal mind, my former Dean at Fordham law school, John Feerick, who still teaches there, author of the 25th amendment, each and every one called it the most absurd arrest they had ever heard up in their careers.