Happy New Year! It's been awhile since this Colorado Springs DUI lawyer has written. So, with resolutions and all that, here we go!
In Colorado Springs misdemeanor and Colorado Springs DUI cases, there used to be established "plea bargain guidelines" that the DA's office utilized to treat people who had similar cases and criminal histories equally. That is fair on a common sense level and the Colorado Criminal Code actually requires it. Those same policies allowed for departure (read "a better deal") if there were proof issues in the case for the El Paso County DA's office or mitigating issues that a Defendant or Defense Attorney could show.
That is changing here in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, and Teller County, folks. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, your prosecutor's office has decided to use the smaller (inference being "less important") misdemeanor, domestic violence, and DUI cases as a training ground for young prosecutors to "cut their teeth." O.k., this has been going on forever--when I was a DA I started with DUI's and misdemeanors as well. So what's changed? Something very important--prosecutors are no longer judged by how well they do their jobs and how they use their discretion. Nope, now the litmus test for promotion is "how many trials have you had?"
Four problems here:
1. Cases are not handled based on just the facts of the case. A prosecutor "needs" a trial for advancement? You tell me, is she going to take a domestic violence offender with prior offenses to trial if the victim doesn't really want to prosecute, or is she going to take the first time Colorado Springs DUI offender where the evidence is solid? What looks better to her supervisor, a win or a loss? The mandated trial count fosters trial for trial's sake, not justice.
2. The policy wastes time and resources. For example, an El Paso County DUI offender loses his license at DMV for a relatively high alcohol content, but not high enough for a mandatory jail sentence. The defendant wants to plead guilty to DWAI, but because of the trial policy the DA will not offer a plea bargain. The case goes to trial and the defendant loses. The resulting difference in sentence? The defendant faces an additional 24 hours of public service. That's it. No additional loss of license. No mandatory increase in fine or jail. So, we have wasted a judge's, six jurors', two cops', two clerks', two prosecutors', and a defense attorney's time and salaries for an additional 24 hours of public service. Awesome. But the DA gets a "trial stat!"
3. These "less important" cases that the DA won't plea bargain aren't less important! A DUI or DV case has devastating impact to those involved. Those charged face loss of career, gun rights, driver's license, and incarceration, as well as the stigma of being a criminal.
4. Finally, judging a DA based on the number of trials he has had is not an accurate indication of how well he does his job. Does he overwork support staff? Does he have a gentle bedside manner with victims? Is he responsive by phone for questions? Who cares as long as he has 15 trials!
Listen, I do think felony prosecutors need experience--but not at the expense of making sure individual cases are handled correctly and fairly. If you think your case is a victim of this new policy, give a Colorado Springs DUI and Misdemeanor attorney a call to ensure you are being treated fairly.