Thankful Client

Being a criminal defense lawyer can be a thankless job some days. Judges don’t like us. Prosecutors don’t like us. Victims don’t like us. Hell, even our client’s don’t like us some days. Client’s can be ungrateful SOBs sometimes.

However, every once in a while. Out of the blue comes a different kind of day.

Today was one of those days.

I have been working on a drug trafficking case for the last year or so. Client was pulled over for a traffic violation. When the cop gets to the drivers side window, the marijuana smoke rolls out and into his face. Having learned something on the street, my client promptly tells the cop that “there ain’t no more weed, we smoked it all.” Needless to say, after arresting him for driving on a revoked license the police find cocaine and oxycodone inside his vehicle.

We were in court this morning prepared to enter a guilty plea or begin a trial. We have spent countless hours discussing the facts of his case. We have discussed trial strategies and plea offers. I prepared and filed a suppression motion in an effort to keep out some of the evidence. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this case and the best way to defend my client.

I have beaten the District Attorney down from her original plea offer of a 20 year sentence. I managed to get her to offer a 20 year sentence with 3 years to serve when my client asked for a split sentence offer. I finally got her to offer a 15 year sentence with 3 years to serve. I have worked hard for my client and listened to his requests and finally got a straight 15 year offer.

Today, on my advice, my client entered a guilty plea and applied for probation. He realized that the facts and law were against him and taking his case to trial would mean a longer sentence. We will be back in court in April to argue for probation before a judge who will listen to my arguments.

He called me this afternoon to tell me thank you. He said that sitting in the courtroom this morning, talking to other people, made him realize what a great job I have been doing for him. Other people were talking about their problems and what their lawyers had been doing for them. It has taken my client over a year, but he understands how hard I have worked for him.

Even though I know that I am good at what I do, it still is nice to hear it from my clients from time to time.

Sitting in my office smiling this afternoon. Thanks.

Finally

In August 2009, I opened a new file for a young lady who had been charged with a DUI. Little did I know it would take nearly 3 1/2 years to close that file.

I was able to get my client enrolled in a deferred prosecution program that would ultimately result in a dismissal of the DUI case. Little did I know that she was addicted to pain pills and was taking methadone to beat the addiction.

Things quickly went bad. She picked up a second DUI and failed to comply with the terms of her program. A warrant was issued and she ultimately pled guilty to the DUI that I was handling in late 2010. As part of her plea, she was still required to complete a DUI program and complete 10 months of monitoring.

Unfortunately, she relapsed and her addiction to pain pills began to spiral out of control. My client was lucky. She has a loving family and the support of good friends. During 2011 and 2012, she was in and out of drug treatment facilities in Alabama and Florida. She didn’t have a lot of money but she scraped together what was needed.

She has now been clean and sober for over a year. She continues to follow through with meetings and counseling. Her life is drastically different thanks to the support that she received from her family and friends. This is not uncommon but is the exception rather than the rule.

Last night I was able to get the court to terminate her probation and close her file. She was fortunate. The system worked for her. I was proud to give her a hug and send her on to begin the next chapter of her life.

Being Fired Never Felt So Good

I got fired yesterday. You might think that I was upset or disappointed. Honestly, it was the best feeling in the world.

In May of 2012 I was appointed to represent a defendant in federal court charged with Aggravated Identity Theft, Possession of Counterfeit Access Devices (read credit cards), Possession of Access Device Making Equipment, and three counts of aiding and abetting. My appointment resulted following the withdrawal of his first attorney. It was apparent from the first moment I met the defendant that he was going to be difficult to represent. He made it very clear that he was smarter than me, that he knew the law better than me, and that he was going to be in complete control of how his case proceeded.

The defendant was in custody when I was appointed. Within 2 weeks, I was able to convince a Magistrate Judge to release him on bond pending the trial of his case. At this point, he was very happy with my services.

Despite giving a 1 1/2 hour Mirandized custodial interview (read confession) admitting to almost every element of the charges against him, he insisted that he was not guilty and wanted a trial. He demanded that I file a motion to suppress evidence obtained in a Georgia traffic stop 1 month before his arrest, despite video evidence that he consented to the search. I did not file that motion. I did, however, file a Motion in Limine and was able to exclude large portions of the video taped confession from being played during the trial. He was not happy with my services.

After 4 days of trial, the Judge threw out half of the counts on a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal. The jury returned a guilty verdict as to the remaining counts. Now he was really unhappy because apparently his conviction was my fault and had nothing to do with his confession and the significant evidence pointing to his guilt. It was at this point that he started using the term Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.

Following trial, he requested and I filed a Motion to Modify the Conditions of his Bond so he could work. He failed to show up for the hearing and a warrant was issued. He was ultimately arrested and placed into one of our local county jails pending sentencing. This again was my fault.

The defendant was scheduled for sentencing yesterday. He filed a Pro Se motion for appointment of counsel a week ago citing irreconcilable difference. We had a hearing at 8:30 on his motion. He clammed up and told the Magistrate Judge that he wanted to move forward with me as his attorney. When his sentencing hearing began later in the morning, he told the Judge I had not provided him documents necessary for the sentencing. The Judge stopped the proceedings and told me to meet with him to go over the documents that I had mailed to him 3 weeks earlier.

When I got down to the U.S. Marshall’s lockup to meet with him, he again started talking about ineffective assistance of counsel. It was at this moment that he fired me. To say that this was the most difficult client would be an understatement. Others have claimed that I provided ineffective assistance in my representation, but no court has ever agreed with them. Disgruntled defendants are an occupational hazard when you practice criminal defense.

Following a hearing at 3:30 in the afternoon, I was finally relieved of my representation of the defendant. The Public Defender’s Office was appointed to represent him and I was free. After putting in well over 100 hours during the defense of his case, I was finally free to close his file for the final time.

Being fired never felt so good.

MIchael P. Hanle
Law Office of Michael P. Hanle

New Blog. Same Criminal Defense Life

Today is the first day with my new WordPress blog site.

Today was a really good day until I got THAT CALL from THAT CLIENT.

We all have one of those clients.  Whether you practice criminal defense or some other area of law.  We all have that client who just pushes our buttons and gets our blood pressure boiling.

The kind of client that thinks they are smarter than you.

The kind of client who thinks that they could present the case to a judge or jury better than you.

The kind of client that wants to be in control of every aspect of the case.

The kind of client who blames the lawyer when he ends of being convicted after giving an hour and a half video taped interview with local and federal law enforcement agents.

The kind of client who admits each and every element of the offense in response questioning by local and federal law enforcement agents during his Mirandized video taped interview.

The kind of client who wants to know what you are going to do to help them, right after they tell you how you managed to screw up the defense of their case.

Well needless to say that conversation went about as expected and completely ruined my afternoon.

Oh well, tomorrow is another day.