Can You Handle My DUI Charge Without Me Having Going To Court?

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talking to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Hi, I’m Stephen Cobb, your host of Florida Criminal Law TV. And as you can see, it is a casual Friday. We are answering your questions about Florida criminal law, so I am going to read the next one and then, cover it maybe if it is a question you have, it will help you as well.

Someone who is a regular watcher was arrested for a DUI, and what is interesting is this is someone who is out of state. Why they would watch Florida Criminal Law TV, I have no idea but apparently, they did. And then they had the misfortune of being arrested in Florida for DUI and this is her question: “Can you handle my DUI charge without me having to go to court all of the time? I live all the way across the country in Maryland and coming back for several court dates would cost more than a lawyer’s fees once you figure out how much it costs to stay in a hotel or a condo and to fly” because apparently, this person is going to fly. Well, the answer to that question is yes, we handle entire DUI cases as well as other misdemeanors without people ever going to court. And sometimes, they get substitutions of charges, sometimes they do not. Sometimes they get reductions in charge, sometimes they do not. But we have a system that we designed many years ago, about 20 years ago actually, where we can handle an out-of-state resident’s case in Florida without them having to appear if it is not a felony and certain other parameters and factual aspects are present. I would say about 90% plus of the cases we handle where people are out-of-state on a misdemeanor case, they do not have to come back. We use a lot of different techniques.

For example, one of the first courts dates that someone has if they are released on bond, they have already been through their first appearance where they got a booking officer bond, is a proceeding called Arraignment. Now, you may be in a county like Okaloosa that calls arraignment “Plea Day”. There is no such thing as plea day in the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure but I am just a dumb board-certified expert in criminal law who has done nothing but criminal law since July the 2nd of 1990 and they are called “Your Honor”. So, they can call it because they are the judge. So, plea day and arraignment may be the same depending on what county you are in. And what a lawyer should do is file a written plea of not guilty as well as a Notice of Appearance Notice of Discovery and a waiver of your appearance or your loved one’s appearance at arraignment court.

Now, why would you want to do that? Well, first of all, imagine this person gets on a plane in Maryland, flies all the way to Florida, stays in a hotel during the busy season, in tourist season in northwest Florida, pays an arm and a leg, then gets up in the morning, they are ready for court, they are dressed appropriately, they go, their lawyer shows up and they sit around for hours with two hundred other people waiting their turn, finally their name is called, they go down, their lawyer says, “Plea of not guilty, demand trial by jury”, and the judge says, “Very well. Please pick up your court dates. Your court dates are X, Y, Z”. And the person walks out of court and says, “Wait a minute! I flew all the way in from Maryland just to sit around for hours to hear my lawyer speak for about 5 seconds, accomplish nothing that useful and then I go out of court, check out of my hotel, go back to Maryland and I have to come back again?” And the answer is, if it is not done correctly, yes, you will come back 8, 9, 10, 11 times in some cases, especially in felony cases. So, what we do is we have every client sign a waiver of speedy trial. And some people immediately think, “Why would I give up my right to a speedy trial”, and the answer is that you are not going to win on a speedy trial violation and it really can sometimes be called the Speedy Conviction law because if you rush your case too quickly, you can rush yourself into the speedy conviction.

I have seen people in jail actually do that because they are convinced that based on what other people in jail have told them, not a lawyer if they rush the state with a speedy trial demand that they are going to win. No. The purpose of the speedy trial rule is to ensure cases are tried, not dismissed for violating it. So, there are lots of little windows and wiggle rooms and oust that the prosecution can use to get a little bit of additional time, make sure their witnesses are present, and if, at that point, the defense asks for a continuance, the judge is kind of like, “I do not think so after that”. And this can hurt you. So, what we have found is better, particularly for people out-of-state is we use a series of control dates, motions to continue, waivers of arraignment, and other things. And then, in many cases, they are resolved by written pleadings. Let’s say that we get a negotiated dismissal and we are so successful that there is no formal report to probation type of pretrial intervention, which was one of those phony diversion things where you are jumping through so many hoops, it is almost set up for you to violate, and oh, if you violate, you are going to go straight to sentence; you are not going to go back to square 1 with a trial. So, we would use a deferred prosecution agreement, which means that if someone completes some minor requirements, charges are dismissed.

And in other cases, it might be a written plea in absentia, which is a fancy of saying your DUI case, for example, has been substituted for a reckless driving charge, and all the terms and conditions are in a prepared order for the judge, there is a place for you to sign an acknowledgment of your rights, the rights you give up your trial rights when you enter a plea of no contest. And in this way, whether someone lives in Tennessee, France, or Maryland, their case can be handled from start to finish without a court appearance. Now, this does not apply to everyone but if we can keep you out of court and there is not really an important reason for you to be there, then I think it is a good idea to keep you out of court. It reduces your expenses, it reduces a lot of stress because the night before a court, people usually do not sleep very well. And it makes your case much easier to manage from your perspective simply by removing a lot of court stress.

I was in court not too long ago and somebody was continuing their client’s case the client was called down, stood at the podium and sure enough, the judge remarked the case had been continued 8 times but he was going to grant another continuance because some discovery had not been forwarded that should have been forwarded. It was not the prosecutor’s fault, there was no Richardson hearing but the judge had to continue the case and so it was the ninth time. And what really struck me was this poor person had been drugged down to the courthouse all of these times just to sit around for hours, waiting for their lawyer to thunder and speak a whopping 15 seconds at most, we do not want that to happen to you.

If we are filing something like a motion to dismiss under 3.190C4 or a motion to suppress, you are going to have to be present for that. If we are going to do a sentencing hearing or we are going to do a trial, you are going to have to be present for that. But when it comes down to those things that you really do not need to be there for, why don’t we handle your case the easiest way possible for you and take some stress off of you using a series of techniques that keep you from having to go to court even though you have misdemeanor criminal charges.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talking to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.