Join 3,516 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Need your help
September 22, 2011 8:32 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend is about to face a court date next week for a furnishing alcohol to a minor charge.... he would gladfully face punishment for this crime, however, he didn't furnish alcohol to a minor. The prosecutor wants him to accept the plea agreement and not waste anyone's time. My boyfriend just doesn't want it on his record. Any ideas?

My boyfriend's court date is next Tuesday. We live in Southern Indiana and this incident happened nearly 400 miles from here in NW Indiana. I was not with my boyfriend when this happened, but I've heard the story from him as well as his friend who was a witness to this and we're trying to figure out what his best line of action will be on Tuesday. As a first note, both him and his friend are over 21.

Basically, his best friend invited a girl he was interested in over to their hotel room while they were visiting NW Indiana. The girl was from the town in question and my boyfriend knew next to nothing about her. He'd bought himself a 12 pack of beer, his best friend had his own alcohol. The girl had brought alcohol in her purse. Later that night (after drinking all the alcohol in their possession) they decided to walk to a nearby gas station to get cigarettes. It was in January... it was below zero that night and there were several feet of snow on the ground. 100 yards from their hotel, they see cop lights behind them. The cops begin haggling them about their alcohol use. They split my boyfriend, his best friend, and this girl up. They discover the girl is just under 21 and thus underage. She is breathalyzed and blows a 0.23. They ask my boyfriend if he had drank that night and how much alcohol he purchased... he tells them he bought a 12 pack for himself and that was it. They start asking him how she got drunk and when he keeps telling the same story, they get angry and they say that no one is leaving until someone confesses to giving her alcohol.

Mind you, it's still below zero outside. My boyfriend says again that he bought beer earlier in the night, and that must have been the magical phrase... they arrest him and he then spends 4 days in jail before he is bailed out. He was not breathalyzed and was not read his rights before or after his arrest (I'm not really sure this matters).

Fast forward to now.... he got to speak to his lawyer today and his lawyer is saying he has a good case, but that it will take a lot of time, travel and money to take this to trial. My boyfriend has been trying to get a better full time job and he doesn't want something like this on his record. The prosecutor is offering a simple plea agreement... some kind of fine, 5 days of community service and 2 months unsupervised probation. How likely is he to get out of something like this? He's talked to the girl and she refuses to testify, so it seems to me it's my boyfriend's word against the cop's word. Would it be better to work with the prosecutor, or go to trial? I've heard this town is notorious with getting people in trouble for furnishing alcohol to minors. Your opinion, experience or legal studies would be much appreciated. Thank you.
posted by camylanded to Law & Government (44 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Any chance the girl would testify/admit she brought her own alcohol?
posted by Kololo at 8:40 PM on September 22, 2011


No... both my boyfriend and his best friend have talked to her about that possibility. She's supposedly afraid she's going to get in more trouble (seems illogical to me) and doesn't want to spend any more time inside a court room... she got in a lot of trouble for the underage drinking and public intox that night.
posted by camylanded at 8:44 PM on September 22, 2011


My advice to you is... for him to listen to his lawyer.

Maybe he needs to make some noise about his right to a speedy trial.
posted by no relation at 8:47 PM on September 22, 2011


"was not read his rights before or after his arrest"

IANAL, but isn't this a big procedural faux pas on the part of the police? Does your boyfriend's lawyer know this, and can he make an issue of it?
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:48 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know nothing about actual laws... but on cop/legal shows, evidence that he wasn't arrested properly or read his rights makes the arrest/what happened that night unable to be used against someone. Also can't the court issue a summons for the girl to appear as a witness? Worst case (for her) is that she pleads the fifth, which would likely work in your BFs favor.

Also is it possible his lawyer is looking for the easy way out? Maybe it's time for a new lawyer.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:50 PM on September 22, 2011


It seems that yes, the whole not being read his rights business is the reason his lawyer says he has a good case. I should have said that his lawyer is a public defender and that he's from the local university so I question his validity but we don't have the kind of money it takes for a good lawyer.
posted by camylanded at 8:56 PM on September 22, 2011


Without offering legal advice or other comment on the specific facts of your case, I will simply note that Indiana Code section 35-37-5-2(a) authorizes the issuance of trial subpoenas upon request of the prosecution or defense. In other words, a person can be legally compelled under threat of an arrest warrant to attend the trial and testify truthfully as to what she might have done or witnessed on the night in question, whether they feel like it or not.

I wonder what the BF's lawyer has to say about this possibility.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:01 PM on September 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


IANYL. IANHL. But IIAL, and I do know something about actual laws.

it seems to me it's my boyfriend's word against the cop's word.

It's not that simple. There's the whole Miranda question, namely whether he was arrested with probable cause and whether he was read his rights. There is undoubtedly more. His lawyer should be filing pre-trial motions, including a Motion to Suppress.

So, the important questions are, Who is his lawyer? What has the lawyer said? What is the hearing for? Is it an arraignment? Is he expected to plead at the hearing?

Let me assure you that if his lawyer thinks this case can be beaten, he should absolutely positively not accept a plea agreement. I spend much of my career helping people who pleaded guilty to just "make it all go away" and who are facing very serious consequences as a result. If his lawyer will go to bat for him to make it really go away, listen to that lawyer.

On preview: curious what you mean by "his lawyer is a public defender and he's from the local university." Is he a law student? At Notre Dame? Law students make great defenders. Or do you mean he graduated from some two-bit law school and you're worried about him?

Lawyers from two-bit law schools can be good, there's no simple rule on that. But what you really want is one who thinks he has a case and is willing to pursue that. You don't want one pushing the plea deal down his throat.

And it's of my professional opinion that an expensive lawyer is a very good investment, one that will pay off over and over, even if you can't afford it now. This may sound self-serving, but let me just say that I work 100% on complex appeals, and what that means is that my job is fixing the mistakes other lawyers make.
posted by Capri at 9:03 PM on September 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


I cannot figure out what the evidence is against your bf. The DA is offering a deal so that this goes away. I would tell his attorney to tell the DA that that deal is not good enough. I would accept no fine and a conditional discharge if he stays out of trouble for 6 months. I am not a lawyer but i have negotiated with a DA.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:09 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


IANAL, but I work in social services and being charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor would get me fired and make me pretty well unemployable in my field. It would do the same to most of my social circle and family (teachers, counselors, therapists, and the like). I would fight it.
posted by dchrssyr at 9:12 PM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


but we don't have the kind of money it takes for a good lawyer.

What about finding a lawyer who will take it pro bono? Or, I was told on my own legal question that you can usually get the first talk with a lawyer free. This may at least help him figure out who believes in the case. Oh, and (disclaimer: TV info from "The Good Wife") major law firms take on a certain number of free cases for some PR/legal reason. So don't despair of getting a good lawyer!
posted by DoubleLune at 9:12 PM on September 22, 2011


He was not breathalyzed and was not read his rights before or after his arrest (I'm not really sure this matters).

This probably does not matter here.

Yes, I agree with others that he should listen to his attorney. If I were representing him, in my city, this is the sort of thing I could eventually get dismissed by dragging it out and wearing the prosecutor down. Ultimately, the prosecutor is not going to waste time having a jury trial on this. That's just how things work where I practice.

This is why he needs to listen to his lawyer. Only the lawyer knows how things work in that locality.

One thing to keep in mind is that, unless there's some major credibility problem with an officer's testimony, judges often side with the officers because they see them all the time and, hey, why wouldn't they side with the nice officer they see frequently, or the guy he's never met who was drinking with a minor? It's just a reality that any defendant needs to be prepared for in a case like this.

DoubleLune: Also is it possible his lawyer is looking for the easy way out? Maybe it's time for a new lawyer.

DoubleLune, did you read the question? Does this sound like a lawyer looking for an easy way out?

he got to speak to his lawyer today and his lawyer is saying he has a good case, but that it will take a lot of time, travel and money to take this to trial.
posted by jayder at 9:16 PM on September 22, 2011


"In other words, a person can be legally compelled under threat of an arrest warrant to attend the trial and testify truthfully as to what she might have done or witnessed on the night in question, whether they feel like it or not."

She can be compelled to show up, but she can take the Fifth. Then the only way to compel her to testify is to get her a grant of immunity. In most cases, that can only be done by the prosecutor, who won't do it here since it could hurt his case.

Besides, as a general matter, it's a bad idea to try to force someone to testify on your behalf when they don't want to.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:18 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


What about finding a lawyer who will take it pro bono?

major law firms take on a certain number of free cases for some PR/legal reason.


He'd be wasting his time to dump the lawyer he has to try to get a big firm or some other lawyer to represent him for free. That's a non-starter in this case.
posted by jayder at 9:20 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The failure to Mirandize could matter, but it's tough to get evidence thrown out. Judges rarely do it, even when the law calls for it.

Since the defendant's statement that he bought the 12-pack is probably one of the main pieces of evidence against him, you'd like to get it thrown out. Theoretically, that could happen if he hadn't been Mirandized when he made the statement.

From a purely legal perspective (i.e. ignoring judges' caprice), the main issue is whether the defendant was "in custody" when he made the un-Mirandized statement. To simplify greatly, it amounts to whether a reasonable person would feel free to go at the time. E.g., if he was handcuffed, officers were keeping him from leaving somehow, or other facts show that he was being kept from leaving, he was probably in custody, and he should have been Mirandized. In real life, many judges will say he was not in custody. I once clerked for a judge who ruled that a defendant was not in custody even though the guy was handcuffed in the back of a police car!
posted by mikeand1 at 9:24 PM on September 22, 2011


I am a lawyer. I have worked as a public defender. I am not your lawyer, I am not licensed to practice law in Indiana, and I don't know enough about your boyfriend's circumstance from what you've written here to be able to give you informed legal advice—even if I wanted to, which I do not. I'm not your attorney, or his.

However, I can give you some encouragement about how to talk to the attorney. Remember that there are competing interests. For example, some clients want a clean record at all costs. Other clients just want the proceedings ended ASAP. Let's say a hypothetical defendant, Bob, is facing a weak case but a tenacious prosecutor. Bob needs to make a decision. Is his first priority a clean record? If so, how much of a priority is it to him? Maybe Bob can prevail but only after an arraignment, a pretrial hearing, a motion to suppress, and an eventual trial date where the prosecutor finally dismisses the charge—in other words, Bob gets his clean record after paying his defense attorney for four court appearances. A different hypothetical defendant, James, is facing the same circumstance and instead decides to pay a $500 fine at the arraignment. James has a record, but Bob has a lighter wallet. Who wins? It's just a question of priority.

Your boyfriend needs to think about what the competing interests are in his case, and which are important to him and how they interrelate. On preview, it looks like he's getting free representation, which helps, but there are other factors (time, risk, etc.). Sit down with him and figure out what's important.

Then, have a conversation with his lawyer. If the attorney is a student and you're not confident in his abilities, then you can request that his supervisor sit in on the meeting for an added perspective. I can tell you that generally speaking, student attorneys will give you better representation because they aren't overworked and they're (usually) well supervised. The shortcoming of a student attorney isn't usually in actually performing the work on the case; it's in the more abstract area of advising the client, since the student lacks experience and perspective. A supervisor should bring both to the table.

Like many things in life, getting advice from an attorney will be somewhat of a "You get what you put into it" equation. Sit down and seriously discuss, with the attorney and with his family, about what the different options are. Use paper and make a list. If your boyfriend is concerned about his criminal record, then make sure you get answers to a couple questions: What does his record show right now? What will it show if he does X? What if he does Y? If those differ, then what are the ramifications? Talk about time, cost, effort/investment, etc. Have specific questions for the attorney, and don't be afraid to ask for clarifications or how he knows something to be true.

Again, none of this is legal advice. It's simply about how to get the best legal advice from any attorney-client relationship, generally. I cannot (and would not) speculate on whether your boyfriend is facing a strong or weak case, or on what he should do. But from reading your question, which includes some nebulous phrasings, it doesn't sound like you have a firm handle on what the options are. And if you don't, then I wonder whether your boyfriend does. He needs to, in order to get the most out of the attorney-client relationship.

Good luck to your boyfriend. And to you.
posted by red clover at 9:25 PM on September 22, 2011 [52 favorites]


My advice would be to fight it, even if he has to resort to a public defender or appointed attorney. Many public defenders are actually great lawyers, they are just over-worked. Appointed attorneys are more of a mixed bag.

But it sounds like it's worth running some pre-trial motions; it almost always is. At the very least, it's a good way to put pressure on the prosecutor (who is also likely over-worked) to give you a better deal or drop the case. In most cases, you won't make things worse just by filing pre-trial motions, so there's not much to lose in it, other than the time and expense. Any half-decent PD, and even many appointed attorneys, can do this.

Going to trial is different. That requires a good lawyer, someone with trial experience (although most public defenders will have that too). And if you lose, many judges will punish you more harshly for "wasting" everyone's time.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:30 PM on September 22, 2011


I should add: In my experience, prosecutors almost never take away a plea offer just because you file pre-trial motions. Typically, the deal stays on the table right up until trial. (Not that there's any guarantee of that, and maybe things are different in your jurisdiction; the defense attorney should have a feel for this.)

Before your friend makes any decisions, he needs to see the police report. His attorney should be able to get a copy from the prosecutor. This will tell you what the cop would say at trial. Nobody can really give you a good idea of what the possible outcomes are without seeing it.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:39 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not yet a lawyer, much less yours, and I do not know your boyfriend. So I can't give you legal or personal advice, I can just blue-sky a little.

The series of events you present here sounds bizarre. Your college-age boyfriend buys a 12-pack all for himself while in the middle of a road trip, then behaves perfectly innocuously at all times -- so much so that he doesn't learn anything about the age of his friend's random encounter, or the fact of her drinking, or his friend's actions, or intentions, all one hotel room over -- and nonetheless vindictive police see probable cause to arrest him, and a judge sees probable cause to incarcerate him for days?

Is it possible that your boyfriend has edited some portion of these facts for your consumption?

Bear in mind that his lawyer is not your lawyer and probably has no obligation to prevent the story from being presented to you in a selective manner. Did you learn what happened through your boyfriend, or by being present in the courtroom?
posted by foursentences at 9:40 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thank you for all the different perspectives to ruminate over. My boyfriend, the lawyer and I are meeting a couple hours before the court date on Tuesday to talk about the options...and he also will talk to us over the phone tomorrow, so no worries. We are working with the lawyer. I should have rephrased what I said about the lawyer.... I don't know him nor his experience working in law. I'm sure he'll be fine representation and I meant no disrespect towards student lawyers with what I said.

Like I said before, I was not there the night it happened so I only have my boyfriend's story and his best friend's story to go off of. The stories do match and it's not unusual for my boyfriend to drink a 12 pack of beer when he wants to drink, so I can't say I question his actions that night or question the story I was told. His best friend is promiscuous for lack of a better word, so I don't doubt that my boyfriend didn't know much about this girl.
posted by camylanded at 9:52 PM on September 22, 2011


So I only know this because my brother had something simiilar happen to him (only with more charges) and is now in prison due to a really shitty lawyer who literally did nothing AT ALL.

Now, this is California so YMMV and IANAL and all that...but...

...the expensive lawyer we've now had to hire said:
1. When you're drunk they generally cannot use what you've said as evidence
2. If you request a breathaliser test and/or announce that you're drunk they are obligated to give you a test and wait on questioning
3. Miranda rights are different when you're drunk (I think he said that they don't read them at that time?)

Again, this is based on some random person on the internet who talked to some random lawyer about it a whilie ago. So if that isn't true in Indiana, I apologise. I hope this works out well for you both.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:38 PM on September 22, 2011


She can be compelled to show up, but she can take the Fifth. Then the only way to compel her to testify is to get her a grant of immunity. In most cases, that can only be done by the prosecutor, who won't do it here since it could hurt his case.

Technically you're right but there's no reason for incriminating questions to come up on direct examination. How about this for example:
Direct examination by BF's lawyer, D:

D: Did BF buy, or otherwise provide, any alcohol for you that night?

Girl: no.

Cross examination by prosecutor P:

P: But you were drunk that night, right? You were drinking underage and had a blood alcohol of 0.23?

Girl: I plead the 5th.
Etc.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:10 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am not yet a lawyer, much less yours, and I do not know your boyfriend. So I can't give you legal or personal advice, I can just blue-sky a little.The series of events you present here sounds bizarre. Your college-age boyfriend buys a 12-pack all for himself while in the middle of a road trip, then behaves perfectly innocuously at all times -- so much so that he doesn't learn anything about the age of his friend's random encounter, or the fact of her drinking, or his friend's actions, or intentions, all one hotel room over -- and nonetheless vindictive police see probable cause to arrest him, and a judge sees probable cause to incarcerate him for days?

But...we don't actually know the age of the boyfriend, just that he's over 21. The girl is "just under" 21 and had obtained her own alcohol beforehand, so I can't see why the OPs boyfriend would demand to know her exact year of birth.

The OP never said that her boyfriend was unaware that the girl was drinking, I believe the guys are sharing a hotel room, in which they're all hanging out and drinking their own alcohol together. (But if the friend and the girl had been "one room over," how on earth would the OPs boyfriend expect to know anything about the girl?)

According to the OP's boyfriend, the cops were verbally aggressive about getting an explanation for the girl's alcohol possession, but no-one accused the police of being vindictive (what would they be allegedly avenging?). Regardless, "incarcerated" is a bit overstated in connotation for someone stuck at the local jail 400 miles from home until he could post bail.
posted by desuetude at 11:21 PM on September 22, 2011


I can't help you with the legal end of things, unfortunately, but I can tell you that my brother has something from Southern Indiana on his record (he was guilty) from eight years ago. No jail time, plea bargained to community service and fine.

He hasn't held down a good job since.

Keep it off the record. If we had known how one ding on your record would essentially knock you out of the middle class, we would have handled things much differently than we did. It's worth it to invest the time, travel, and money to fight it.
posted by arabelladragon at 5:21 AM on September 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


I am a lawyer, and licensed in Indiana. Check your MeMail.
posted by valkyryn at 5:27 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm a fighter by nature and not the kind of person to take injustice lightly. I just want to cast my random internet person vote for your boyfriend to fight this.

I know nothing about the laws in you area but I have a good friend who is also struggling with a record. Every time he finally finds a job if the slightest thing goes wrong he gets the short end of the stick.

At his last job he was accused by a random person of flipping them off on the freeway. He was fired on the spot. They took the word of an anonymous woman with road rage over a loyal employee who had never given them a spot of trouble simply because he has a record.

My friend is a stay-at-home dad, not by choice. He would love nothing more than to have his darling wife stay home and take care of their small children while he went out and brought in the bacon. Unfortunately he can't do that and it makes him feel like less of a man. (Of course there is nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home dad. I think it's pretty awesome, my friend has really traditional views on family roles though and he doesn't like it one bit.)

Please don't let this go. Don't let inconvenience and cost now ruin the rest of your boyfriend's life.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:22 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Again, thank you for the responses. I made a brainstorming list of questions for my boyfriend/ boyfriend's lawyer (with your wonderful responses!) and my boyfriend and I talked about it briefly last night when he came home from work. He seems to want to fight this no matter what it takes, and I think that you guys are right... when you haven't broke the law, you shouldn't settle with a plea. I definitely don't want him to feel trapped into being unemployed or staying in low paying jobs because he can't get anything better with a record, but I also hope this isn't dragged out for months on end. Either way, it's really his choice, not mine. Looks like we're going to be dealing with several road trips in the coming months. Wish us luck!
posted by camylanded at 8:40 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good Luck camylanded and camylanded's boyfriend. I'm sending good vibes your way!
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:53 AM on September 23, 2011


"Technically you're right but there's no reason for incriminating questions to come up on direct examination."


I'm not just right technically, I'm right period.

She can (and most likely will) take the Fifth as soon as she takes the stand; there's nothing you can do about it. And even if she waited until cross to take the Fifth, all of her testimony, including direct, would be stricken.

Believe me, it's almost never a good idea to try to force someone to testify for you if you're a defendant. Only prosecutors can get away with that, and even then it's a risky prospect for them.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:37 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Looks like we're going to be dealing with several road trips in the coming months."


In California, the defendant can enter a "waiver of appearance" that makes it unnecessary for them to appear in court for most of the proceedings. For some offenses, you can even plead guilty without appearing in court. It may well be the same in Indiana, especially for misdemeanors.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:59 AM on September 23, 2011


I have no legal advice. One thing I do want to emphasize though is that his entire future hangs in the balance. Is a few months worth of pain worth not having a record? Please please consider what you have said, if it was me, I would beg & borrow whatever money and time I needed to settle this properly, because what'a few grand and 6 months of work vs. your entire life having something like this follow you around. Just 'making it go away' doesn't. The impacts of having a record are huge, with far-reaching implications.
posted by defcom1 at 2:59 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


He talked to his lawyer over the phone this afternoon. I'm not sure if my boyfriend's just being pessimistic or what exactly was said since I didn't hear the conversation word for word but something's wrong here. Either the lawyer is no good at these cases, the lawyer doesn't want to try to take this to trial, or the lawyer thinks the case is weak because the only solution I've heard from the lawyer is that my boyfriend's best friend (the one that was there that night) might have to testify on my boyfriend's account, but that the lawyer is afraid if the best friend goes on record, it might get my boyfriend off the hook and incriminate him. Either way, the lawyer said he would talk to the prosecutor today.

I can understand everyone's concern about his record and that time and money should not be an issue. The problem is that we have no money.... we live together and we've been living month to month all year. There is no extra money to be had. There's no one to borrow off of. No relatives with money. No credit so no banks can loan to us. No credit cards, etc.
posted by camylanded at 4:43 PM on September 23, 2011


He was not breathalyzed and was not read his rights before or after his arrest (I'm not really sure this matters).

The breathalyzer is irrelevant in regards to the charge of furnishing a minor.

More importantly, and something many don't realize, is that Miranda is only in effect AFTER the actual arrest, not during a 'field interview'. A police officer is NOT required to mirandize you if he doesn't intend to ask you any questions post-arrest.
posted by matty at 4:58 PM on September 23, 2011


Fight it no matter what. This is exactly the kind of thing that will haunt him for a long time and make his life a living misery. Whatever it takes, but don't take a plea bargain. If you have to take out a credit card for this, absolutely do it and then pay it off in the long run. If someone had said to your boyfriend before this happened, "Is your future career and freedom worth 5000 dollars?" he would have said it was worth a million times that or more.
posted by fantasticninety at 6:57 PM on September 23, 2011


"The problem is that we have no money...."

You said the lawyer is a public defender. He shouldn't be charging you, if that's the case. Are you sure about that?

"his entire future hangs in the balance"

"will haunt him for a long time and make his life a living misery"

This is a bit of an exaggeration. We're talking about a misdemeanor, right? It may also be possible to get it expunged in a couple years.

But that's no reason not to fight, if he has a defense.

It is certainly a problem that his friend could incriminate himself if he testifies. But for starters, you might be able to file a motion to exclude if there was a Miranda violation, and your friend could file a written declaration to support it.

Did you get the police report yet?
posted by mikeand1 at 7:05 PM on September 23, 2011


We do not know what is on the police report. To be honest, I feel I am giving this more of a shot than my boyfriend is...he's been talking to the lawyer himself. (Obviously! It's his case!)If it were truly up to me, I would have had more questions for the lawyer at this point. Keep in mind, the town where this case is happening is 400 MILES from where we live, so it's not a simple drive into the next town. We are not driving there until Tuesday... the morning of when my boyfriend is supposed to plea.
posted by camylanded at 9:37 PM on September 23, 2011


It doesn't make sense to take a plea deal without even knowing what's in the police report...
posted by mikeand1 at 9:57 PM on September 23, 2011


I'm just trying to figure out some options. Again... police report is 400 miles away. We will not see it until Tuesday.
posted by camylanded at 10:52 PM on September 23, 2011


I've represented misdemeanor clients who never had to show up in court once, but I don't know if things are different in Indiana.

Can't the lawyer fax/email a copy of the report to you?
posted by mikeand1 at 11:18 PM on September 23, 2011


The problem is that we have no money.... we live together and we've been living month to month all year. There is no extra money to be had. There's no one to borrow off of. No relatives with money. No credit so no banks can loan to us. No credit cards, etc.

I understand. This, too, is something your boyfriend can talk about with his current attorney.

Criminal defense is part social work. For example, before arraignments I would often sit in the lobby outside a courtroom making phone call after phone call after phone call, trying to find an available bed for my client (shelter, rehab, etc.). My goal at an arraignment was to get my client released from jail before trial—either on low bail or on personal recognizance—and there was often a better chance that the judge would agree to release him if I could say, "I have arranged for my client to enter Program_X this afternoon." If it worked, sometimes I even gave the client a ride.

In my jurisdiction, there may be resources available for someone in your boyfriend's financial situation. I don't know his exact situation so I can't say for certain that in my jurisdiction someone in his circumstance would be able to find help...and I definitely don't know the first thing about what resources are available in Indiana. However, you can research this. Contact the Indiana State Bar Association. Look for local bar associations. Find a law library, either public or at a law school, and ask the law librarians. They cannot give you actual legal assistance, but they can point you toward whatever resources might exist. Some law schools have legal-assistance clinics that might either provide help directly or be able to point you elsewhere. You could also try contacting your state legislator's office. That might sound silly, but this is actually part of their job—helping constituents interact with the government. Obviously they hope their constituents remember this help at election season.

Don't be afraid to ask an attorney, "Could I hire someone else? What alternatives exist?" I can't promise he won't be offended, especially depending on how the question is put...but he shouldn't be. When you walk into court as a client—whether you're a criminal defendant, a civil plaintiff, whatever—you should feel comfortable and confident with your representation. If you don't...? Do what's necessary to correct that. Maybe that means sitting down with your attorney and brainstorming some questions to ask him. Etc. But it's vitally important that you feel good about the representation you're getting. It is "representation."

You'v indicated that you feel more invested in the result of this case than your boyfriend does. That's not uncommon. As I said above, there are competing interests. Many defendants, especially those facing lesser charges, just want to get the process over with as quickly as possible. Sometimes they feel shame about their circumstance, sometimes they fear a worse result if they drag things out, sometimes they just plain don't want to have to wake up on a weekday and drive to court for 8:30 am. To belabor my earlier hypothetical: If Bob wants to attend law school someday and then get a gun license and apply to the FBI, then maybe he's glad that he spent hours on the phone finding the right attorney, bought a new suit and drove back and forth to every court appearance, and then paid $2,500 in legal fees. For Bob, the clean record was worth all that trouble and expense. On the other hand, if James ends up living a life where a minor conviction never becomes relevant, then wrapping up his proceeding in ten minutes with a $500 fine might seem smart.

Ultimately it's his decision. As his girlfriend, your decision is how much to support his decision versus how much to challenge his reasoning. Part of that may depend on the commitment of your relationship and where you see yourself in five years. How much does/will his decision affect you?

I'll add one thing. You said the events that gave rise to this case happened in January. It is now late September and your boyfriend has a court date on Tuesday. Based on your description, it doesn't sound like your boyfriend has been proactive about his case. In my experience, defendants who are informed, proactive, and well-organized have better experiences with the justice system. We learned the lesson in elementary school: "Do your homework." Time is now short, but there are still ways to implement that lesson. Consider whether there are things you/he could have done in the past eight months. If so, then either ask his attorney about getting more time or else make the most of the next few days.

Again, none of this is legal advice—just ideas about what to discuss with your boyfriend's attorney, and how. Some comments in this thread have strayed into discussing the specifics of your boyfriend's case, and I hope you don't misconstrue me as doing that. It's a bad idea. The only person qualified to give legal advice on this case is your boyfriend's current attorney. My only advice is to maximize that attorney-client relationship.
posted by red clover at 12:32 AM on September 24, 2011


I haven't seen anyone mention deferred adjudication as a possibility in this thread. Such arrangements have different names depending on the state: deferred adjudication, adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, or diversion. But the programs are fundamentally the same: the defendant goes on probation for a certain period of time, and upon successful completion of probation, the case is dismissed.

In my state, deferred adjudication agreements come in two forms: one in which the defendant pleads guilty but sentencing is deferred, and if the probation is completed successully the court dismisses the charge and the defendant is never sentenced; and another in which the district attorney's office enters into a memorandum of understanding with the defendant setting out probation terms, and agrees not to prosecute the case any further is the probation is completed successfully. (This second form does not involve an up-front guilty plea by the defendant, and thus, if the probation is violated, the prosecution resumes and the case can proceed to trial or guilty plea.)

I would urge you to ask the lawyer if deferred adjuciation or diversion is a possibility here. It avoids the risk of trial, and basically guarantees a dismissal as long as the defendant complies with the terms and conditions. And it avoids the risk, expense, stress, and inconvenience of trial.
posted by jayder at 12:16 PM on September 24, 2011


We did find out that the court date on Tuesday is for his plea. I'm a little confused about that since he pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, but from what I gather, there's also a plea date for discovery after arraignment. The only odd thing is the amount of time between the two dates. Is that normal? Either way, I will be asking the questions to the lawyer myself on Tuesday. I think my boyfriend really only keeps asking the lawyer about complete dismissal which looks very unlikely.
posted by camylanded at 2:24 PM on September 24, 2011


Sometimes a court date will be called a "change of plea hearing" because it is anticipated that the defendant will change his plea from the not guilty plea that was initially entered, to a guilty plea.
posted by jayder at 3:00 PM on September 24, 2011


Thank you everyone for your help! It really helped put our minds at ease. As an update, his lawyer ended up telling us some bad news. Not only were the arresting officer and the judge friends, but they also had similar values...they throw the book at anyone with an alcohol related charge due to PERSONAL INTEREST. Figures, right? According to the lawyer, there was no fighting this case. If my boyfriend would have tried fighting it, they would have entered in a higher charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor which is a Class A Misdemeanor here. He took the plea deal.
posted by camylanded at 1:04 PM on October 25, 2011


« Older Does anyone know a wonderful c...   |  ID this horror film that featu... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.