A Moment In The Life

My client stood accused of stealing some clothes from a department store.

"They're saying that you..."
"It's all true," he interrupted.

"Well, let's just go over the facts real quick. It says..."
"I know what it says. I did it, I stole those clothes. Can you get me out of here?"

"Let's see, I have to find out a little about you. Are you working or going to school right now?"
"Yeah, I go to school, that's why I had to boost them clothes."

"Well, I've had a look at your rap sheet. You already have a criminal record from a few other cases. I'm pretty sure I could get you time served on this case. Is that what you want?"
"Sure, sure, whatever. I just want to get out of here."

We go in front of the judge, and I'm able to convince the judge to give my client time served if he pleads guilty.

I enter the plea, and the judge asks his standard follow-up questions which include, "Do you understand that you are entering a plea of guilty to a misdemeanor charge, that is, a crime?"

In response, my client turned to me and shouted, "A CRIME? YOU TRYIN' TO PUT A CRIME ON ME?!? I DIDN'T DO NOTHING AND YOU PUTTING A CRIME ON ME? THIS IS BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT! PUBLIC DEFENDER BE BULLSHIT!"

I turned to him and said, quietly, "Calm down. You never have to plead guilty if you don't want to. But you told me that you stole those clothes and you told me that you wanted to plead guilty and get time served, right?"

"Yeah," he said, "but I didn't know it was a crime to be stealing!"

In the end, he took the plea, got time served, and got to go home. (He probably would have stayed in jail if he didn't take the plea, because he didn't have money for bail.)

But I spent the rest of the day thinking, "WTF? He didn't think it was a crime to steal? What did he think it was? Did he think paying for clothes was voluntary? What a punk."

Ahhh, some days I love my clients.

7 comments:

  1. Jeez Louise. You must have the patience of a saint!

    I confess my job is a helluva lot more boring than yours.

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  2. Well, ok, I take that back. Like you, I have clients who foolishly can't believe what they've done is criminal..but they're usually corporate execs in better suits. Still idiots.

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  3. at least they're not like the crazy Alaskans who want PDs to file all kinds of motions that they download from the internet saying that the laws don't apply to them because they never agreed to the social contract.

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  4. I think that's just about my favourite real life case ever. In the HISTORY of ever.

    The lawyers I work for come in with stories like this all the time and it never fails to make me wonder: have we failed so much of society into thinking stealing IS NOT A CRIME? Or are we simply nurturing them into ever-growing "This could be an episode of Ally McBeal for all the sense it makes" stupidity purely for entertainment value?

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  5. I think that's going to be Dick Cheney's response some day: "A crime? Warrantless wiretapping is a crime now? I didn't do nothing and you tyrying to put a crime on me?"

    Hope he gets a good PD....

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  6. Oh, that just sounds like a regular ole' day in a NYC Criminal Court ...

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