Thomas G. WitkopLaw Offices

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A Good Lawyer Knows the Judge

There is a saying that a good lawyer knows the law but a great lawyer knows the judge. Allow me to toot my own horn.

Recently I represented one of four codefendants in a massive shoplifting spree. All four codefendants had lawyers and all four cases were set on the same trial date. The prosecution offered guilty pleas to two counts of theft and would recommend probation to the judge. Three of the defendants on the advice of their attorneys took these guilty pleas expecting to get probation.

I investigated the evidence further and was very concerned with what this particular judge would do with a shoplifting spree of this nature. The three defendants who were pleading guilty would admit to going through no less than four different stores in a one-hour time span stealing over $1500 worth of merchandise. Even though the prosecution was recommending probation I was concerned that the judge would incarcerate these other defendants. My client was also a green card holder and a felony conviction, which was offered, would have exposed him to immigration consequences including deportation.

Based on my investigation and uneasiness I elected to go to trial. Before my client's trial began the other defendants actually pled guilty in front of the judge and each defendant received either six months in jail or three months in jail and the judge set an appeal bond of $50,000. This basically guaranteed that these defendants would remain in jail while the matter worked its way through the system. I was very pleased not to take the guilty plea on behalf of my client.

Based on the fact that the judge had now heard three guilty pleas and was quite familiar with the "facts" of the case it was decided that this judge might not be able to fairly hear this case. Because we elected a trial we were sent to a different judge for the trial.

In my case my client was charged with six counts of various forms of theft. After the trial my client was acquitted of five of the six counts. On the only count upon which he was convicted in my case, he was sentenced to 30 days of jail which is certainly much better than three months or six months in jail. Further, my client's appeal bond was only $4000 instead of $50,000. Knowing what the judge might do and fighting for my client saved my client a great deal of jail time.
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