Written by attorney Jonathan Andrew Paul

Tell your lawyer to get off his ass and make a difference in your case - Being Proactive Day One

When most people are charged with a crime, they view the prosecutor as the enemy, and the judge as the bias referee to the case.

In a lot of cases that is true if your approach is to storm the courtroom doors on day one, and ask for a fight. There are times to do that, but not on day one, and it should not be the default approach.

I take a very different approach. As a former prosecutor, I put myself in the shoes of the prosecutor, and say "ok, what does the prosecutor think about this case". My first conversation with the prosecutor acknowledges both the good and bad about the case, and sometimes I begin with the bad parts. Showing the prosecutor that parts of the case make sense to us as well, and we acknowledge those issues, it takes the wind out of their sails and allows us to focus on the more favorable parts of the case.

When you're charged with a crime, there are going to be things you don't like about the case, and that's just the nature of the beast. It's about setting important goals and focusing on big picture items. Figuring out the breaking point for a prosecutor or their motivations allows me to resolve cases for clients.

By leading with the bad parts of the case, I can quickly pivot to all of the proactive items that my client is working on, and highlight the next steps in the process. For example:

My client was arrested for a DUI where that was an accident, and they are double the legal limit on the chemical test. Uh oh that sounds bad from any prospective, but what does it really say about the client? If this client has no history of criminal offenses, they hold a steady job, they have a family and are otherwise responsible, isn't there some room to create a more complete picture of this case?

99.9 percent of criminal attorneys will sheepishly walk up to the prosecutor and say "uhh, my client is 45 years old, no priors, has a wife and kids, and works at GM, can I have a sweet deal?"

As a former prosecutor who heard that same garbage story 1000's of times - come on man! Give me something to work with - I am not going to bat for your client because they have kids and a job - that sounds like a few million people in Michigan who didn't drive drunk, what else do you have for me?

Instead I would walk up to the same prosecutor, and start with the bad - "yeah my guy's BAC was pretty high, accident too, I can certainly see why you would be taking a closer look at this case, and have some concerns"

Better me to say it than the prosecutor be fired up about it. Cue the pivot to the good stuff.

"Yeah, so my guy was certainly quite alarmed too - once he could reflect on this - he's lucky to be alive, standing here in court, and nobody else was harmed by his poor choice" - "that's why he underwent a substance abuse assessment right away, jumped into 3 AA meetings a week, and he's been doing daily alcohol testing twice per week - he's up to 25 days now, 50 clean tests, no drinking" - "he's also working with a counselor on a weekly basis, and spending 7-8 hours a week working with a local non-profit" - He's really trying to keep himself 100 percent focused on sobriety, positive community engagement while maintaining his role as dad and full-time employee for GM where he's worked for 25 years

Doesn't that sound A LOT better than "uhh my guy has a job and kids so give him some sweet deal"

I'm not even looking for the sweet deal at this point - if they want to offer it up, I'll consider it, but I'm more likely to take a step back, and say "my guy is working hard, and he knows he's not where he needs to be yet, and may never be there, but he's just asking for you to keep an open mind and consider the full story, not just what's in the police report"

This prosecutor may need to go speak to their supervisor prior to the next court date, and I would follow up with a letter with a detailed outline of this plan and documentation. Be respectful of the prosecutor's time, make their life and job as easy as possible and motivate them to get the deal done.

That's how you work with a prosecutor and get good deals that both sides feel comfortable with - EARN IT!

If the prosecutor won't give you what you want, they will expect you to litigate and both sides will live with the outcome, but to bring out your sword on day one, you could be missing out on a great result, or making the case toxic and stressful to all parties.

Additional resources provided by the author

Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Avvo DUI email series

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer