The Art of the Plea

A Brief Post of Advice for Attorneys


How I imagine every attorney sees themselves.


Attorneys love them.

I assume it’s because it makes their job easier and they get paid the same regardless of the outcome. I’ve posted before about working smarter instead of harder, so I get it.

Here’s the thing, though.

When approaching an officer in traffic court about your client and beginning to ramp up your “Hey, would you be amenable to…” speech? Maybe stop real quick and ask yourself three quick questions.

  1. Is there a reason my client got two traffic citations within five minutes of one another?
  2. Is there a possibility my client was a huge prick to the officer?
  3. Based on the answers to my first two questions, am I wasting my ever-loving time asking the officer if he’d be interested in a plea deal?

The answer to the first question is yes. If your client got two traffic citations within mere minutes of one another, I assure you there is a reason for it.

And if the answer to Question 1 is yes, you can bet your sweet backside the answer to Question 2 will also be in the affirmative.

My assumption is that if you made it through law school and you are licensed to practice in the state of California, you are not a complete moron. Following that logic, if the first two answers are yes, what do you think the answer to #3 will be?

I will give you the benefit of the doubt and say you are batting 1.000 right now.  Well done.

I had occasion a few months back to cite a gentleman (and I’m using a very liberal interpretation of that word) for two separate violations. The first was for speeding (54 in a 35). He was displeased at the result of his actions.

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The second was for violating a pedestrian’s right-of-way as he made a right turn. See, he was too caught up in yelling at me to watch for the juvenile crossing the street in front of him.

Of course, he didn’t have the balls to show up in court himself, so he hired an attorney to represent him. The attorney made the error of submitting an informal request for all kinds of bullshit documents that have nothing to do with the case on the Friday before the trial (which was Monday morning). I was off-duty at the time.

When the attorney approached me in court, I told him he was welcome to whatever paperwork I had with me (my copy/notes of the citations), but if he wanted anything further, he’d have to subpoena them.  He said he understood.

Then, he made the mistake of not running through the aforementioned three questions.

He asked me if I’d be okay dismissing one cite or reducing the speed.

I nearly laughed in his face.

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Ordinarily, I don’t mind working something out with an attorney, if I feel justice has been served. What I told this attorney though was his client was an absolute jerk (though, I think we all know that wasn’t the word I was thinking) and there was no way on God’s green Earth I’d be offering him any kind of deal.

The guy kind of chuckled. As if I was messing with him.

I just stared at him.

At some point, one could see the light go on and he realized he had no wiggle room. He asked if I’d be okay with a continuance to allow him to try to get the paperwork he was looking for.

No skin of my nose. The more work this guy does for his asshat client, the more it’ll cost him.

The Wheels of Justice indeed.

Featured Image courtesy of Flickr and Jere Keys.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

10 thoughts on “The Art of the Plea

  1. I agreed to reduce a charge with an attorney before traffic court once and just for fun after the atty said “per prior agreement with the Officer we plead no contest to…” Judge asked me if that was ok with me and I said “I have no idea what he’s talking about. I agreed to no such thing…” Pregnant pause, look on counselor’s face worth a million bucks “nah, just kidding yeronner, that’s fine”.

  2. In my county, officers are not allowed to work deals with defense attorneys. That’s the way it should be- officers should not be put in a position where they have to compromise their own case. When a private attorney shows up, the commissioner calls us, and we send over a misdo DA to work a deal or do the trial. Its bad enough that we have to deal with these guys, but that’s what we went to law school for (I almost said make the big bucks, but that’s laughable considering the insane amounts of money cops make 😛 ) – officers shouldn’t have to.

  3. I Miss those days… I truly enjoyed Court days… I loved doing trials, especially when the Defendant was less than respectful and I had great evidence, such as the video… I was well trained, and thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with some great attorneys (Ryan Russman, Donald Blaszka…) They were just doing their job, and I always learned something from each trial.

  4. It probably depends on your states laws. [sarcasm]Completely surprising to me is that every state has it’s own laws, 10 code, and practices. Who ever thought they have their own sovereignty?[/sarcasm]
    Here in Utah the city prosecutor handles all the traffic violations. All traffic violations are still criminal and not civil in nature. So I never talk to the defender(if the violator is not self representing) until on the stand. Luckily where I work the prosecutor reads and works with us closely. If he reads certain things in the citation notes about their behavior or traffic violation he never cuts a deal. Ever.

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