This is my philosophy of practice in the criminal trial courts. When I accept the responsibility of representing someone in a criminal trial-level case, I enter into the representation with the ultimate goal of getting the case dropped and expunging any history of the arrest and/or court proceeding from my client’s record. There are several ways to accomplish this goal. First, I can lobby the prosecution and attempt to get them to drop the case before it ever goes any further. In the case of someone who retains me before any arrest and/or indictment, this means to keep either of those things from ever happening. In the case of someone already arrested and scheduled to appear in court, this means getting the case dropped when we actually do appear in court. Second, I can try to obtain a pretrial resolution involving some minimal commitment by my client in exchange for the charges being dropped in the future. Third, in the event, I cannot convince the prosecution to drop the charges, I will investigate and research any possible motions to suppress or dismiss, which I can present in court and try to convince the assigned judge to eliminate the criminal charges already filed due to legal errors. Fourth, in the event I cannot gain closure of my client’s case through any of the previous methods, I will prepare the case for trial and seek a jury verdict acquitting and absolving my client. Over my 35 years of practice, I have tried, to date, 162 cases to verdict, and most prosecutors I deal with know my record and will try to avoid having to face me in front of a jury.
In 2011, I began documenting the results in my trial-level cases in the state courts and keeping performance statistics. To date, I have represented 151 clients at the trial level in Miami-Dade County and have been able to obtain dismissal through the prosecution, court, or jury in 111, or 74%, of the cases. In Broward County, I achieved these results in 50% of my cases, and in other counties in 67% of my cases. These results are broken down further in the attached Analysis Sheet.
Not all cases can be dismissed. Sometimes, due to my client’s wishes, my client’s prior record or probation status, or an honest evaluation of the evidence, we will choose to engage in plea bargaining. At that point, my goal, of course, is to obtain the most favorable plea possible for my client. Given the circumstances of the case, this may involve having the charge dropped from a felony to a misdemeanor, closing the case with a plea to the jail time already served by my client (a CTS plea), agreeing to a probation plea, or, when the situation is hopeless, obtaining a plea to the least amount of jail/prison time possible. In the 151 Miami-Dade Cases mentioned earlier, I closed 14, or 9%, with a CTS plea, 12 cases, or 8%, with a probation/boot camp plea, and 14 cases, or 9%, with a jail/prison plea.
In representing a client on direct appeal, I first make sure the appellate record is complete. After doing this, I will fully review and outline the record with the goal of identifying all possible appellate issues. My next step is to fully research all the possible issues which are adequately preserved for appeal. In conducting this research I will use not only the usual research resources but also my own brief bank and my Book, Florida Criminal Trial Procedure. I am often able to build upon the research and writing I have already done in prior appeals. Finally, I focus the appeal on the most important and promising issues and write my brief. Some sample briefs are attached. I have been doing appellate work for about 30 years and estimate I have filed around 500 briefs. Nobody wins all their appeals but I have obtained reversals in three of Florida’s five appellate districts, the Eleventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
Post-conviction motion work represents the last chance many people convicted of crimes have to get relief. Post-conviction proceedings include motions to set aside convictions, motions to set aside illegal sentences, habeas corpus petitions, writs of coram nobis, parole proceedings, and petitions for executive clemency. I have been involved in all of these proceedings and have represented defendants in post-convictions proceedings in state and federal courts in Florida, West Virginia, New York, Georgia, Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Arizona, California, and Washington. Post-conviction work is very challenging, as the courts have established many procedural hurdles to a successful attack on a jury verdict in the American system. It is often said the focus of the American courts is on procedural due process rather than substantive due process, and it is indeed difficult to have a court in this country re-open a case after it has been fully adjudicated at the trial and appellate levels. But, when an attorney is successful in obtaining post-conviction relief, it is one of the most professionally fulfilling experiences imaginable.