My lawyer canceled my Settlement Hearing and asked for a Donald Hearing instead. The state has offered me several pleas. The way I see it is I can "sell out" and take the plea, serve 19 months, or hope justice prevails and I won't have to spend 40 years in prison. I'm innocent and want to go to trial but my lawyer won't even prepare for it. My question is, wouldn't it be better if I went to a Settlement hearing so I would know more what the State has against me, and so that my lawyer will look into my defense (which I am pretty sure up to this point he has not). The other thing is he won't give me a copy of my file, saying that he doesn't have to unless I fire him, which I can't because I gave him everything I have and can't afford another lawyer.
A "Donald Hearing" is just a hearing where the prosecutor reads the plea offer(s) into the record and also reads the possible sentence if you are convicted at trial into the record. If after having been read the two the Defendant rejects the plea it makes it very difficult for the Defendant to win an appeal and/or a Rule 32 post conviction relief petition on grounds they didn't know what they were facing. So, yes, a settlement conference would be better.
Your attorney is required to provide your file if you ask for it, so if he refuses tell the Judge and he should order your attorney to provide it to you. If you are unhappy with your attorney you can fire him and (depending on what your attorney-client fee agreement says) ask him to prepare an accounting. Maybe he hasn't earned all of the money you have paid him and you can get a refund of some of the money you have paid and hire another attorney. If you are now indigent, you can ask for a public defender to be appointed.
Good luck with your case.
Your attorney has to provide you with a copy of your file. They can charge you for copying it, but they can't withhold it from you. As for the settlement conference, if you're not interested in a plea there is really no reason to have a settlement conference. That is what it is for, to settle your case. The Donald Advisement just tells you what you are facing at trial and what the plea is, that's it. That way if you're convicted at trial you can't claim not to have been aware of the consequences.
I understand you're in a bind and might not be able to hire another attorney, but if the one you have isn't preparing for the trial you are requesting, you really need to find a way to get a new attorney.
Please note, my answers to questions do NOT create an attorney/client relationship. Only after a written agreement is entered into between the parties is an attorney/client relationship created. Additionally, the responses posted here are done so on limited information and should not be fully relied upon without an in person consultation where the entire case is reviewed and discussed in detail.
Settlement conferences can be helpful in getting a firsthand assessment of the State's case and there is no requirement for the defense to tip their hand at all. Your attorney is required to give you all of the discovery he has received from the state, much of which is usually in digital form. There is a vast difference between 19 months and 40 years, so a settlement conference may give you a better idea of where you would fall in that range in the worst case scenario of a conviction. It never hurts to get a second opinion on your case, even if you don't have the funds to hire another attorney at this point.
The information contained in my post is intended to convey general information. It should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. It is not an offer to represent you, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship.
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