Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Plea = Pressure > Urge to fight

Yesterday a client of mine got a lesson in how the criminal (in)justice system in Harris County operates. As a condition of his bond, my client is required to submit to a random urinalysis as well as a mandatory urinalysis after court. He must also pay a monthly fee. Interestingly enough (but not at all surprising), even though he is, in essence, on probation, he will receive no credit for it should he be convicted or plead guilty.

What's more troubling for my client is the time off from work he's having to take in order to fight his case. He is in fear of losing his job if he has to continue to take time off to attend court. A short reset didn't help matters any.

He is under pressure to resolve this case but the only way it's going to get resolved in the near future is if he enters a plea.

I told him that this is how things work in Harris County. The judges require meaningless resets as a way of pressuring defendants to plead guilty so they don't lose their jobs. The idea is that at some point the pressures from work will overcome the urge to fight the case.

This is one of the reasons such a high percentage of cases in Harris County result in plea bargain agreements. Rarely is it about whether a person did what he was accused of doing, more often it's about trying to get on with one's life and keep one's job.

For those unfortunate enough not to be able to post bond, it's all about trying to get out of jail as quickly as possible. With judges refusing to grant personal bonds, defendants in custody will leap at an offer of time served - regardless of the consequences of that plea. And too many attorneys are more than willing to participate in this charade of justice in order to remain on the gravy train.

Once a defendant has been arraigned or indicted, there is no need for him to be present in the courtroom unless he is entering a plea or going to trial. Continuing to require defendants, who, by the way, are presumed innocent, to appear in court for needless settings only serves to make a mockery of our legal system.

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