Evaluating Case To Determine Best Strategy
As far as the Van Nuys Court goes, I've been dealing with the prosecutors for over 25 years, and I have a pretty good idea for what type of pre-filing intervention can be done in a criminal case; in particular, it has to be the correct type of case for pre-filing intervention.
In other words, you're not going to do a pre-filing intervention in every single case. Sometimes the patient does not end itself in pre-filing intervention, and that's why it's essential to talk to a criminal defense attorney before you or any attorney attempts to contact the prosecutors in any way before the case is filed. You don't want it to have the opposite negative effect by contacting them.
What we do is we will evaluate the case. We will talk to you. We will get your version of events and a close-call chance. You have some excellent ammunition that the police have not investigated that the prosecutor should see before making a filing decision; that's the type of case where we're going to reach out to the prosecutors at the filing level — send them a letter, give them some character letters and give them our angles on the case so that they can look at everything.
If it's a close case where it could go either way and it's a gray area, then we want to explain to the prosecutor what they should be evaluated from our perspective.
This way, they don't just get some one-sided report from the police that doesn't consider another view of the case. For example, we will get witness statements. Please send them to the prosecutor that maybe the police didn't obtain. Any physical evidence — photographs or videotape if those are available and we know that the police have not received them, then we will acquire them and get them to the prosecutors.
Usually, the filing deputies are very busy at the pre-filing level, so they're not just taking calls from everybody. It is tough to get a hold of them. In my experience, they're rarely going to be calling and talking to attorneys unless it's some major sex crime case or a major murder case, or a significant narcotics case.
Sometimes I have had some success with them talking to me about the case and giving some good feedback. So, most of what we're doing is sending mitigation packages or letters to them trying to show them kind of our side of things so when they sit down to evaluate the case and make a decision whether to file it and precisely what to point, they've got the other side of the story.
Avoiding The Filing of Criminal Charges
The reason why we do this pre-filing intervention in some of the cases in the San Fernando, Van Nuys, is because once the case is filed, it's a lot more challenging to convince the prosecutors to either dismiss it or change the charges than if we can get to them right from the beginning.
And we can't get to them right from the beginning in every case. Sometimes by the time we get to them, the people mess around and wait until very close to the court date; they've already made a filing decision to file the case. Once they've done that, you've got to wait until the court date comes, and then your attorney will speak to them and show them the evidence. So, that's another way to do it.
Of course, the best way to do it is right from the beginning when they're deciding whether to file charges, what charges to file, get the information from your investigation, from a pre-filing standpoint and that information, if you can get it to them, follows the case from the beginning to the end.
Now, you've almost got your mitigation information in there, which I think is helpful in the overall strategy if you're going to try to resolve a criminal case either short of it going to trial or short of it being filed. So, suppose you've got a case that you think there's some investigation that needs to be done. In that case, you feel that your side of the story is not getting across to the prosecutors or the police. You don't want to be in a position where you're sitting there talking to them, potentially incriminating yourself.
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It would help if you used your attorney to buffer you and the police, you and the prosecutors — let your attorney be your voice. Let your attorney be your champion. Let them give the information pre-filing. Let them do the investigation the right way for you — collect evidence, talk to witnesses, get videos — do what they can base on your particular case. It's not the same thing in every case. You need a specific approach designed to help you and your situation. You can't generalize that.
That's got to be something that you and your attorney sit down and go over everything step by step before the case is filed. You decide what, if any, investigation needs to be done. You determine what witnesses need to be talked to what evidence needs to be gathered.
Then you let the attorney gather that. You help the attorney if appropriate. The attorney then puts the package together for the prosecutors in Van Nuys or the San Fernando Valley and lets them review it with a defense slant that matches up against the police slant.