What Type of Pre-Filing Intervention Can Be Done if you Have a Criminal Case Pending in the Van Nuys Court?
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 right 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 case does not really end itself to pre-filing intervention and that’s why it’s important 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 if it’s a close-call case and/or you have some good 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 kind of 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 kind of a gray area, then we want to be able to explain to the prosecutor from our perspective what they should be evaluating. This way, they don’t just get some one-sided report from the police that doesn’t take into account another view of the case. For example, we will get witness statements. Send them to the prosecutor that maybe the police didn’t obtain. Any type of physical evidence — photographs or videotape if those are available and we know that the police have not obtained them then we will acquire them and we will get them to the prosecutors.
Usually, the filing deputies are very busy at the pre-filing level so they’re not going to just be taking calls from everybody. In fact, it is very difficult to get ahold of them. In my experience, it’s very rare that they’re going to be calling and talking to attorneys unless it’s some major sex crime case or a major murder case or major narcotics case. Sometimes I have had some success with them actually talking to me about the case and being able to give 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 exactly what to file, they’ve got the other side of the story.
The reason why we do this pre-filing intervention in some of the cases in the San Fernando Valley, in Van Nuys, in San Fernando is because once the case is filed it’s a lot more difficult 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 making a decision whether to file charges, what charges to file, get them information from your own 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 definitely 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, if you’ve got a case that you think there’s some investigation that needs to be done, you think that your side of the story is not getting across to the prosecutors or to the police, and you yourself obviously don’t want to be in a position where you’re sitting there talking to them, potentially incriminating yourself — you need to use your attorney as a buffer between 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 based on your particular case. It’s not the same thing in every case. You need a specific approach that’s 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 decide 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, for example or in the San Fernando Valley and let them review it with a defense slant that matches up against the police slant.