Jailhouse lawyers make my life hard


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One of the hardest parts about being a criminal lawyer is fighting the lies spread inside the jail. Inmates have a lot of time on their hands, which means they spend a lot of time thinking about their case and hearing other people talk about their case. This results in some of them believing that they now understand how the system works. On the other hand, there are inmates who like to make up facts or information to scare other inmates. The problem becomes that clients spend 99.9% around these people, which makes it difficult to keep up with all of the rumors, speculation and lies. Here are a few of the beliefs I have had to address with clients who are in jail while their case is pending.

The prosecution always has three offers, so we have to turn down the first two to get the real offer. 

This is the most prevalent rumor I hear. Now, this idea is grounded in examples the inmates see and hear about every single day. Often, the original offer by the prosecution is not the final offer. Now that does not happen because they create three offers for every single case. Instead, as the prosecution learns more about the case, clients can come up with restitution, or simply time goes by, the offer can change. Somehow, this has morphed into a hard and fast rule that there is always three offers. This belief makes life difficult when the prosecution has a solid case and wont lower their offer or when they do lower their offer once, but will not do it a second time.  A client may reject fair offers because they truly believe that if they keep refusing the current offer, a better offer will be given. I tell clients that I have had cases with 1 offer and other cases with 5 offers. The specific case and prosecutor determine the number and quality of the offer. Sometimes, a good criminal defense attorney can do enough work on the front end that the first offer truly is a great one.

The Grand Jury is made up of ex cops and ex prosecutors. This is a new one for me, but it is scary to think that this is going around the jails. A Grand Jury is composed of people from the county where your charge came from. They can be ex lawyers or ex police, but it is a random assortment of citizens.

Where is my motion for discovery? 

The first time I heard this I was honestly very confused. A motion is an oral or written request for something to happen and discovery is the evidence the prosecution has in the case.  I thought my client was asking why I had not filed a written motion asking for the evidence. After a few minutes talking, I learned my client as actually asking to see the evidence the prosecution had in the case. In most counties, the prosecution provides all of the evidence without the need for a motion, which means that in the majority of cases a motion asking for discovery is never necessary.

Oh, they have to do it that way because this is a Commonwealth state I am not sure where this got started, but inmates regularly believe that the fact that Kentucky is a Commonwealth means that some of our laws are predetermined. As an example, if a victim wants to dismiss an assault case, but the prosecution refuses I will hear "Where it is a Commonwealth state, the prosecution does not have listen to the victim.", which is not true.  Once the case goes to the police, the victim loses the power to control the result. The victim has input, but at the end of the day it is up to the prosecution how to resolve their case. This has nothing to do with our state's designation as a commonwealth.

A guy in my pod was offered 1 year and he has the same charge as me, you need to get me a 1 year offer. It is hard to get clients to realize that each case is completely different. A client's criminal history, the prosecutor handling the case, the facts of how the crime was committed, and who the victim was are all factors which can profound affects on the offer made. Often, other inmates fail to disclose why they received the amazing offer they did.

After all of this, you can see why all criminal defense attorneys want their client out on bond and not in jail hearing assumptions, lies, and gossip.

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