Why is my criminal case taking so long?
We get it
Being a criminal defendant sucks, and one of the reasons why is the huge amount of time the system will steal from you. For example, in most counties (besides Dallas) judges require defendants to appear at every setting, even on who-gives-a-shit misdemeanor cases. Defendants have to miss work and wait around the courthouse just to sign a pass slip and get another court date. It gets frustrating when it feels like the case is moving towards a conclusion, and defendants have to keep investing. The truth of criminal defense lawyering is that the fast result, or plea offer, is usually not the best result, or plea offer.
So what makes a criminal case take so long?
Just getting all the police reports, witness statements, and videos can take months. The State really has no incentive to make sure that you get discovery quickly. If the State is late with discovery, the usual penalty to the prosecution is…. nothing. We’ve had cases that were set for trial, cases that were well over a year old, and prosecutors still give us some discovery (even DNA results!) the week before trial. What happens to the Prosecutor who sends discovery late? Nothing. We (the defense) usually get a continuance (sometimes), but nothing bad happens to the State.
I don’t know why prosecutors would ever file drug cases without lab results. But some do. I don’t why prosecutors file DWI cases without blood labs, but some do. Well, I guess I do know why, because like the first example, nothing bad happens to them if they file without the results. And we can’t do anything on a DWI or drug case without the lab results. DNA evidence usually takes the longest for some reason. Forensic computer exams take a while as well, especially if the county doesn’t have its own forensic team.
Lawyers reset cases to get paid. It’s true. It happens. So if you are on some kind of 24-month payment plan for your assault case, then your lawyer might want to reset your case until that’s paid off. We do shorter payment plans so it’s not an issue for our clients.
Older cases are better for Defendants, usually
It’s harder for the State to convict on an older case. So if you aren’t getting a plea offer you want, and you can reset the case without risking a trial setting, then it’s usually a good idea to reset it. For example- Witnesses get arrested (including cops), move, die, or no longer want to participate in the trial. The longer a case goes on, the more likely it is something will happen that makes the case harder to prosecute.
Time Heals Some Wounds
While your case is being reset the prosecutor will indict, file, and try a few hundred more cases. If the prosecutor is mad at you, then your case might not so bad after a year has passed and she’s had to deal with much worse defendants, crimes, and cases. Time can also have a healing effect on victims, and a complaining witness might decide to eventually forgive you or agree to a more lenient sentence.
The law might change
In my time lawyering, we’ve had the 6th Amendment come back from the dead, we’ve had criminal laws overturned on 1st amendment grounds, and we’ve had time limitations put on traffic stops. All these rulings helped clients with pending cases. Those who had pled already, not so much.
USE THE TIME YOU HAVE!
Since you have free time after you are arrested use that to build your resume. Imagine that a year from now you have just been convicted of whatever you are charged with. What would you want to tell a judge or jury about the kind of person you are? And what you bring to the community? Why do you deserve leniency?
Work, go to school, go to counseling/treatment, volunteer, take care of your family, be an asset to society. That way if you are convicted and have to take the stand, or you need others to testify on the kind of person you are, you can put forward a compelling case.
If you have a criminal case in the greater Dallas area, including Kaufman, Rockwall and Collin County, call Guest and Gray today. We’ve got a team of amazing defense lawyers ready to help.