Thursday, November 14, 2013

District Court Probably Hates You, It Sure as Hell Hates Me

District Court is considered to be "real" court or "big time" or whatever you want.  You will be told, if you ever ask, that what happens in misdemeanors and infractions is only "kind of" the law.  Law is truly and only done in the District Court.

That is a ridiculous oversimplification.

First, all judges are human.  Most will, if you are a good attorney, do what you convince them is the law.  Many will, if they respect you, let you get away with fudging things here and there.

Second, the problems in the lower levels of law are often built in.  Judges can fudge more because no one is paying attention.  So if you have a bad judge, you're in for it- but only to a point, because really, you're looking at like a year in county worst case scenario.

Third, District Court is hardly the holy grail of law.  District Court judges still want to churn out guilty people.  The only real difference is that fudging happens less often.  This is almost entirely a problem for you, because even if the state, say, doesn't have the ability to successfully keep your client locked up if you have a preliminary hearing because the lab isn't in yet- they will simply arrest your client again, open a new case, and you just lost your credit for time served.  And your client has two felonies rather than one on his record.  So good going.
Also, most felony clients are in jail.  They can't get out.  Not just because in Idaho there's no such thing as reasonable bail, but because you won't be there to help argue it when your client appears for the first time, and better yet, unless you get notice to the court 7 days prior to whenever you want to argue it (and that requires the judge's clerk paying attention to you) your client will never see the light of day without the agreement of the state.  And you know what that will cost.

Can we focus on reasonable bail for a second here?  Who the fuck determines this shit?  All the judges seem to grab insane numbers from their asses that are roughly the same.  Felony DUI- 40 grand.  Burglary- 10 grand.  PV in a misdemeanor- 25 grand.  PV in a felony- if bail, 50 grand and up.
Who the fuck says any of that is reasonable?  Does my client being poor as shit mean nothing?  Do they assume if my client gets a loan from friend/family that will help keep them on the straight and narrow if they get out?
Look, I understand there's a disconnect here.  Some people you kind of have to say, well, shit, I can't let you out because you NEVER COME TO COURT or CONTINUE TO BREAK INTO CARS.  But you don't have to give people bail!  JUST REASONABLE BAIL.  And fucking 40 grand to a homeless person is not reasonable bail.  It is the same as not giving bail.

And fuck, it'd be great if judges just came out and said that.  But they've been playing this bullshit game with themselves for so long they literally believe what they are saying.  Sure, 45 grand because you blew off probation on this trespassing charge.  Blah blah I'm a fucking rubber stamp blah blah.

Thank you very much your honor.  Your total lack of insight into what you are doing assists the state in forcing pleas in cases they shouldn't be taken, and punishes people for conduct they haven't admitted or been found to have committed.

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