Posts Tagged ‘Jacksonville’

COPS Episode Ends with Victory for Client

June 9, 2010

My daughter recently recorded an episode of “COPS” that was filmed in Jacksonville. The whole family sat down together to watch just for fun.  To my surprise, I soon realized that one of my cases was featured on this episode!

It was a re-run of an old show that originally aired at least eight years ago.  The case was one of those that I’ll never forget.  And since “COPS” doesn’t tell the whole story, I can reveal how it ended favorably for my client.

The officers went to an apartment to serve a search warrant. Prior to the execution of the warrant, there was some discussion at the police station indicating confusion over the address at which the warrant was to be served.  On the show, you see the officers use a battering ram to burst into the apartment (without the constitutionally-required knock and announce, but that’s a story for another day) and arrest the people inside.

Here’s what happened off-camera.  The sworn affidavit for the search warrant that the officers presented to the judge alleged that a confidential informant had bought drugs at a specific address, but when I deposed the officer who prepared the affidavit, he testified that he had mistakenly written the wrong address on the affidavit.

I filed a motion asking the court to force the State to reveal the identity of the confidential informant so that I could question him regarding where he bought the drugs.  If the address alleged on the affidavit for the warrant was in fact not the one where he bought the drugs, then the warrant would be invalid.  The judge agreed that these unusual circumstances justified the extraordinary remedy of compelling the State to reveal the identity of the CI; otherwise, my client’s Fifth Amendment right to cross examine the witnesses against him would be denied.

The State chose to drop the charges rather than reveal the identity of its confidential informant.


Sentencing Guidelines, Part II

January 18, 2010

I came across another example of the way our judges are not allowed to use their own judgment anymore.  These are the kinds of things that don’t make the newspapers.  “Tough on crime” rolls off the tongue really easily, and it makes us all feel good, but it doesn’t take into account all the cases that get swept under the rug of injustice in our furor to rid our streets of violent crime.

This was a Jacksonville case.  The charge was possession of cocaine.  The defendant had prior felony convictions, and the sentencing guidelines called for a minimum sentence of 14 months in prison.  But the trial judge felt that the defendant was amenable to drug treatment, so he sentenced the man to six months in the county jail, to be served in the residential drug program (which is a well-respected treatment program).  The state appealed, arguing that the judge did not have a valid reason for sentencing the man to a sentence lower than the sentencing guidelines called for.  The First District Court of Appeal agreed, ruling that the judge did not have a valid reason for a “downward departure” sentence, and sent the case back to the trial court for resentencing within the guidelines.

I’m not faulting the First District Court of Appeal.  The court’s legal reasoning was correct.  And I’m not saying that the trial judge’s sentence was the one I would have imposed.  I don’t know anything about the particular facts of the case.  I might have felt that a prison sentence was more appropriate.  The point is that trial judges are supposed to use their experience, reasoning, and judgment in making these kinds of decisions, and in many cases their hands are tied.  The law does not always permit them to impose the sentences they feel are appropriate and justified under the particular circumstances of the case.

If you were in front of a judge, no matter whether it was for a traffic ticket, a DUI, or any other crime, wouldn’t you want the judge to make a sentencing decision based on all the facts? Wouldn’t you want the judge to consider your particular circumstances?  I know I would.