So, you got arrested. You posted bond. And, now you’re out of jail, sitting in my office on the verge of tears. You’ve got all kinds of things running through your head. Maybe you’re second-guessing the decision to go drinking last night. Maybe you’re wondering what you should have told the police when they claim they’ve had complaints of weird odors from your crawlspace, and they want to take a look. Maybe you’re wishing you hadn’t wrapped your head in duct tape and robbed that liquor store.
Whatever your chosen mischief may or may not have been (you might be not-guilty, after all), you’re focused on what you did and what you could have done. Everybody is. Everybody always wants to change the past.
Newsflash: You can’t change the past. You want to change some things you told the police in your written statement? I’m all for it. Just go ahead and send your “new” statement to the police. Can’t wait to see how that affects their decision to charge you. It won’t, of course.
A wise man, perhaps Michael J. Fox, once said that you can change the future. I’m not really sure that makes sense, though. If the future hasn’t happened, how can you change it? What I think he meant is that you can affect the direction of the future.
Want to change the direction of your legal future? Being out on bond is a great opportunity to make yourself a lot more sympathetic to the prosecutors. Ever think about spending your weekends reading books to blind kids? What judge wants to lock up the blind-kid librarian? “Judge Matt” wouldn’t feel so great about that.
For some reason, however, it’s not as easy as I’d think. Some people heed that advice, and things go smoothly. Others, though… well, let’s just say some people don’t care. Or, at least pretend they don’t. On that note, if you’re sitting in my office wondering if it’s too late to “take back” the consent to search that lead to the police finding that kilo of cocaine inside your wallet, consider the simple tips that too many people ignore while out on bond:
1. Don’t get arrested again while out on bond. Just don’t do it. Really bad idea. So bad, in fact, that the lawmakers have decided to extra-punish you when this happens. Where, normally, multiple prison sentences are served “concurrently” (at the same time), sentences for offenses commit while you’re on bond must run “consecutive” (one after the other).
Remember when you went to the movies to see Teen Wolf Too and decided it would be funny to record 30 seconds of it on your iPhone? Well, that could earn you 1-3 years in the Big House when you’re found guilty of Criminal Use of a Motion Picture Exhibition Facility. Remember when you were out on bond for that and you spit on the guy who was saying bad things about your mom? Spitting can normally only be a misdemeanor. Unfortunately for you, though, you’d flipped up the hood on your new, puffy, North Face coat. Because you did, Illinois law makes that misdemeanor into a felony.
Now, you’ve got the double-whammy. Because you picked up a new arrest the judge is a lot more inclined to hammer you on the first… as well as the second. Plus, because the second came while you were on bond, any prison sentences will be forced to run consecutive. 30 seconds of iPhone movie making and spitting on some guy who might have deserved it may now earn you 6 years behind bars. Lessons learned? First, don’t pick up a second case while you’re out on the first. Second, you’d be better off wearing a Members Only jacket than a puffy North Face Coat. Members Only jackets don’t have hoods.
2. Kill your Facebook. Seriously. Why? Because you put all sorts of stuff on there. In fact, you put everything about your life on Facebook. Your 32,444 “friends” know when you’re eating, where you’re at, and what your last meal was. They also know that you were arrested last week. And that you’re sorry “but” you’re only sorry that that guy made you slash his tires and fill his Oldsmobuick with pudding. He did deserve it after all, right? You told us so on Facebook (<– “like” me if you like me).
If your 32,444 “friends” know it, do you know who else does? The police. Prosecutors, too. Believe it or not, people who want to put you in jail have Facebook. What’s that, you say? You keep your updates private? Good thinking! Although, I’m pretty sure 32,441 of your “friends” are squealers. They will be plenty happy to tell the police what you’re putting on Facebook if the police ask politely. Think about it. You confessed your crimes on Facebook, but you expect them to be quiet? Assume that anything you put on Facebook (or your friends say on Facebook) is going to get back to the people who want to throw the book at you.
3. Start using a calendar. And, an alarm clock. So, you’ve been charged with the Class A misdemeanor of Theft of Library Materials for not returning that copy of “Dianetics” and those two volumes of Encyclopedia Brittanica you checked out in 1998? Sure, you know it was just a misunderstanding, but your prosecutor wishes “library crimes” were punishable by death. You post your bond, get yourself a lawyer and start gathering evidence to present in your defense.
You wake up on a random Friday at your customary 11:42 a.m. and something just doesn’t seem right. Maybe you had an appointment with your lawyer that day and you can’t remember when? You call your lawyer- no quick answer, he’s in court. In the afternoon he calls back.
Lawyer: Hey, where were you?
You: What do you mean? I was calling to talk about my case.
Lawyer: I was hoping to talk to you about it, too. Today. After court. Why weren’t you there?
You: Umm… I thought court was next week?
Lawyer: When next week?
You: Umm… I’m not really sure about that, either.
Lawyer: Ok, well the judge issued a warrant for your arrest.
You: Can we tell him I overslept? I sorta did.
Lawyer: We can tell him whatever you’d like. Although, we should probably tell him something we didn’t use the last four times you did this.
The reality is that I can usually avoid a warrant if a client who normally shows up mysteriously doesn’t show up once. Maybe twice. Much beyond that, though and things get dicey. The judge will issue a warrant, and if it happens too many times, the bond amount on the new warrant will be so high that there’s no way you’ll post.
So what? I’ll tell you what: People in jail get worse deals than people out on bond. Why? Because they want to get out. Right now. Under any circumstances. If I get bad offer on a guy who is out, that client is usually ok with going through a few more court dates to let me work a little voodoo. Somebody already in jail, though? They don’t want to wait in jail one more second. “I’ve got to do 1,000 hours of community service by next week, pay $46,993,345 in fines and have an electronic brain monitor implanted, but I get out of here today? Where do I sign the paperwork?”
Prosecutors know that people in jail will take just about any offer. So, they don’t make their best offers. Jails are full of people who overslept their court times or showed up on the wrong day. Do yourself a favor and start using a calendar… and not the calendar on Facebook.
There you go. Three simple tips, for free. Don’t get arrested again, stop blabbing on Facebook, and use a calendar. Make that four tips, actually… don’t duct tape your head and rob a liquor store, either. Things really didn’t end well for that guy.