I hear too many clients telling me stupid things like, "Oh, you didn't tell me I shouldn't keep getting rearrested." Or "Nobody told me I really had to come back to court when the judge said I had to come back to court." Or "Oh, you didn't tell me I shouldn't be caught selling drugs while I'm on trial for selling drugs!"
So, when I worked arraignments last week, I took the judge's slow pace as an opportunity to actually tell all of my clients the rules. It should be interesting to see whether actually being told what to do will (1) stop my clients from making the same stupid mistakes and (2) stop my clients from saying "You didn't tell me...!"
For this little experiment to work, I had to give each client the same exact instructions. (I'll consider all of my previous clients, who weren't given such explicit warnings, the control group.) So, this is what I told them:
"You're going to be released from here today. In order to be released, there are 3 rules you're going to have to follow.
1. Keep in touch with me. This is the phone number and address I have for you. [Read it to client, ask if they have any other numbers... a work phone, a cell phone, etc.] If you move or your phone gets disconnected, it's your responsibility to let me know how to reach you. If I leave a message, you need to call me back right away. It's possible that the prosecutor will call to make a limited-time offer. If I can't get a hold of you, you might miss out. If you don't hear from me within a few weeks, feel free to check in with me.
2. Come to court. Coming to court is your priority over everything else. You need to be here, and you need to be here on time. If you have a real emergency - someone died or you're in the hospital - give me a call and let me know ahead of time, so I can tell the judge where you are. And you're going to need proof of where you were, so you might as well get it while you're there.
3. Don't get rearrested. That means you have to be on your absolute best behavior. No arrest is too small or insignificant to make the prosecutor say 'He had his chance.' This means no loitering, no drinking in public, no smoking weed, no hanging out with the wrong kids, nothing."
Every client, maybe because they were mostly young, seemed to listen pretty intently to the rules and seem pretty pleased that I was laying the rules out for them so clearly.
All of the clients who heard "the 3 rules speech" were released, which gives them all a fair opportunity to follow the rules. I'm not setting my hopes too high though - I know that my clients are my clients because they're not rule followers. And if they could all follow rules, I'd probably be out of business.
Later, at the end of the day, I walked out of the courthouse and saw one of my clients standing in front of the courthouse with some other kids, smoking a cigarette.
Completely joking, I shouted, "HEY! WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT LOITERING?!?"
And my client -oh god, this cracks me up- said, "Oh shit! That's my lawyer!" and took off running!
Took off running! Ha!