If you have been following the court trials of the rich and famous over the past couple of years, you may feel that being a celebrity allows a defendant special treatment because of their status in popular culture. Often times, media reports suggest that because of a defendants perceived celebrity status there exists a “double standard” in the courtroom. Such advantages noted of late include; being late or absent for court without consequence, being granted alternatives to actual jail time, and just flat out paying their way out of trouble. This article seeks to explore those three ideas.
Perils of Being Late to Court
WARNING! The perils of being late to court can be extremely treacherous. Unless you’re a Celebrity where the media is in the courtroom waiting on you, being late can certainly jeopardize your chances at receiving a favorable outcome.
What to do if you find yourself late to court:
1. Call before you arrive
Be respectful to the courts, opposing counsel, and court employee’s time by making sure you alert the court your estimated time of arrival when you feel that your will arrive to the courthouse after the time set for your hearing.
This is usually not a problem as long as the court is notified as soon as possible and as early in the morning or afternoon as possible. This is especially true in such a large and populated area as Los Angeles County, which is prone to pop-up traffic jams without warning.
2. Alert your client to the situation as soon as possible.
The next call after alerting the court that you are running late should be to your client. Being involved as a party to a matter in Los Angeles Superior Court can be a stressful situation, and not knowing where your legal representation is can only add to the anxiety. You do not want your client checking into the courtroom alone after they have retained your services, or worse, being forced to answer any questions on any topic without you being there to advise and support them. The Judge and Opposing Counsel may also view this as unprofessional and it may end up ultimately hurting your case.
3. Arrive calm and prepared for the hearing.
Try to breathe and relax, be confident in your preparation and experience. You don’t want to appear flustered or shaken at any time before, during, or after the hearing.
4. Apologize to all who will listen.
Be respectful to the courts and opposing counsels’ time and let them know you appreciate their patience.
5. Do not throw your client under the bus
No matter how late your client may be, or the reasons for their time management blunders, do not point the finger at them or make any statements to the Judge or opposing counsel which blames your client for tardiness. Just state that the proceeding should either begin shortly or explore options to continue the matter to be heard either later in the morning, or later that afternoon.
Exceptions to the Late Rules:
You are always on the Judges’ time when they are on the bench, and you should not forget that fact.
2. Police Officers
As attorneys, if we are late we most often lose and are lectured by the court in the process. If these above mentioned “officers of the court” are late, the rest of us have no choice but to wait patiently.
Alternatives to Jail Time
Alternatives to jail time are commonly requested by attorneys. Not often are we representing a client that at the eleventh hour would not be willing to do almost anything and everything other than report to county jail after they are sentenced. Eligible individuals have a variety of options to choose as alternatives to being behind bars 24/7 during their sentence.
1. Community Service
“Can I do community service instead?” This is one of the first questions from clients whom do not want to pay fines or do jail time under their limited or short sentences. It is usually granted for small fines and non-repeat offenders.
2. Private Jail
Private Jails or “Pay to Stay” programs are essentially a cross between a jail and a hotel. Most high-profile clients would rather this option for fear of being harmed by other inmates in the general population.
3. Weekend Jail
The option of only reporting to jail on the weekends, is used when the defendant is the sole provider of their family and is able to report to and finish the terms of their sentence every weekend. This option usually takes the longest to finish the jail time, as the client is only able to complete two consecutive days at a time.
4. Work Release Programs
Work Release programs are used when the defendant is able to work and there is a need for the type of labor that can be supervised by law enforcement. A great example of this is when the correctional facilities allow certain non-violent lower level criminal inmates to work with the Los Angeles County Fire Department and Forest Rangers clearing brush in order to serve their punishment as well as and clear flammable brush during wildfire season. CALTRANS is also a popular Work Release Program where common roadways are cleaned and maintained.
5. Alternative Sentencing Programs
Alternative Sentencing programs aim to assist defendants whom the court feel need rehabilitation and counseling rather than just prevention and confinement. These programs include self-help classes and psychological counseling sessions, often in groups. This type of sentencing is not for violent offenders whom have substance abuse or emotional and mental health concerns. Examples of Alternative Sentencing Programs include:
– Domestic Violence Classes
– Sexual Deviance Classes
– Anger Management
– Interlock Ignition Defense
– Child Psychology / Parenting Class
– Alcohol Abuse and Drug Abuse Classes
6. Rehab Programs
Many defendants facing criminal charges have issues with alcohol and/or drug addiction. These programs seek treatment from those addictions and education about reasons for abuse.
7. Civil Compromises
Certain criminal charges can be drooped after the victim and the defendant reach a civil compromise. This involves reaching a monetary agreement with the victim in a criminal action, sufficient to cover the cost of damages incurred by the victim. This option is one that may perk the ears of many outsiders to the legal system, who call foul when a person pays money to the victim of crime or harassment in exchange for misdemeanor charges being dropped.
Alternatives to jail time can be costly, which most celebrities are able to afford. Many celebrities are also able to bring some sort of attention to the programs they are involved in or making donations on behalf of. When you have economic resources, you are also able to hire more expensive counsel who are often times experts in a particular legal field astute at getting the desired result.
Jail Alternatives also can be very pricey depending on locations and amenities. For example, a treatment center located in Malibu is a rumored to charge $50,000 a week. Thus, a 90 day sentence at that location would cost a client upwards of $150,000 for the duration of their stay.
When the arrest is a misdemeanor and the victim may claim damages to their personal property, it is possible in some instances, to have the charges dismissed through what is known as a “civil compromise”. During this process the remedy must be one that could be awarded in Civil Court through a civil suit for damages.
The victim must come before the court and acknowledge that they have been fully compensated for the loss of property. The interesting part is that the prosecution does not have to approve of the compromise. As long as the victim and the court are satisfied with the compromise, the charges will be dropped.
Exceptions to Civil Compromise
Several exceptions to the Civil Compromise exist; The offense must not be charged as a felony. All crimes against family members, the elderly, police officers, or children are exempt. All domestic violence or violations of court orders are also exempt.
In my experience, “strange” outcomes for defendants can often occur, whether they were famous or not. Sometimes people catch breaks while it seems others are made examples of. Depending who is on the bench, who they represented in their career and how they were treated could always influence a decision. Many times media coverage in a courtroom is not a Judge’s favorite, unless that Judge feels like the star of the show (and I have encountered a few of those), most Judges are happy to move the calendar along and get that media circus over with as soon as possible and not have that particular defendant return anytime soon. The difference is also that certain celebrities have another judgment of the people; the court of public opinion. Most celebrities are watched so closely it would be hard for them to get away with day-to-day activity that others would not think twice about, whom are not in the spotlight. Somewhere balance is achieved and the system does its job. This criminal justice system only works if there are good people on both sides a wise Judge once told me, and I believe this to be true.
Overall, deciding how to handle your Criminal or Civil case depends on your individual circumstances. Therefore, it iTherefore it works if there isr abuse. addictionse, during, or after the l during any part of your illness? If so the courts ms imperative that you contact an experienced attorney to assist your needs. If you require representation on the above or any other criminal matter, feel free to reach me directly at The Law Offices of Mark A. Gallagher: (800) 797 – 8406 and email: email@example.com
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