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Fortunately, nowadays, it’s becoming more and more common for cruiser or body cameras to be present on many law enforcement agencies around here. Let’s face it, you’re nervous, you may forget details because of the nerves and everything else, and everything happens so quickly. So I don’t expect the client to remember everything verbatim or in accurate detail. The good news is these videos will generally capture almost everything we need. Unfortunately, if no cameras are being used, it makes a case much more difficult, but a lot of it will depend on how detailed the police officer is in their report.
Sometimes you get police officers that just put maybe a quarter of a page of details, which — and I think defending the case is very helpful for supporting the case because that means they weren’t very detailed in what they observed. Their opinions are going to be very weak. The officers who put a lot of detail into their notes make cases more challenging if a client doesn’t remember anything and has no video. If there is a video, I don’t care how much a police officer writes because we can always make arguments based on the video.
I always wait until I have all of the discovery information and until I’ve reviewed it with the client before I enter a plea on any kind because I don’t believe a client can make an informed decision on whether they should enter a plea unless they have all the information necessary including the discovery and video. So, I always send clients copies of discover once I receive it. If there is a video, I always invite the client to my office to review it. If, however, the client prefers not to view the video, I will review it on my own and discuss my thought on the video. In that case, I’m not going to force anybody to do it but generally speaking, most clients want to see their video, so I will always make that available.
Guilty pleas generally will come after all discussions, after reviewing discovery and discussing with them the potential outcomes, after plea negotiations with the prosecutor so that I can tell the client, again, with a pretty high likelihood of certainty of what’s going to happen in a case. I hate surprises, and I know clients don’t like them either. So, I never want to enter a plea unless I feel pretty certain about an outcome and always give them an excellent idea of what to expect reasonably.
In very few circumstances, I’ll have a client plea a case out before review and discovery, and that only happens for specific reasons. For instance, the client isn’t from Ohio or Kentucky, and there’s just no way that they’re going to be able to come back to Ohio, and the prosecutors want to do some plea deal, or if there are extenuating circumstances that require a plea to occur before review and discovery. However, these are a rare occurrence.
As I said, at the initial appearance, we enter a not guilty plea and set it out for a pre-trial almost all of the time. We set it out for a pre-trial to request driving privileges because, generally, clients’ number one concern is how soon they can drive. You do not get your driver’s license back, but you can request limited driving privileges. I don’t want a client to take a half-day off work to come down for 15 minutes. So, if I can waive their presence for a hearing, I will do that.
If it’s something where we’re working out a plea, we’ll generally set it for a plea hearing or trial hearing and enter a plea at that time. If it’s something that we’re going to litigate, we’ll either set it for a motion or a bench trial or a jury trial. A typical case will range between 30 and 90 days. Most cases are done within 90 days. Now, if you’re litigating a case, it could take up to a year for litigation purposes. Most of the time, it’s six months but up to a year, depending on who your judge is.
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