Many well versed clients have often questioned me as to whether prolonging pre trial proceedings will serve their legal interests within an Indiana criminal courtroom. The theory being that in time, witness memory or availability may be called into question and/or a police officer may not be able to appear as a witness. As a result, a necessary court date could be missed providing legal leverage for a favorable outcome whether through agreement or case dismissal.
Speaking as a defense lawyer in Indiana I understand these thoughts, especially when media reports highlight the seemingly bizarre case rulings and resolutions from more populous jurisdictions such as those within California, Florida or New York.
Most recently I have read a terrific article shared by lawyers Michael Stewart & K. Lawson Wellington highlighting the almost comical degree to which a defense attorney in New York City has been able to use delay to benefit his clients without repercussion for many years. I have linked this article on my google plus page for review.
I can only theorize as to the reasons why other legal jurisdictions harbor an allowance for recurring delays in criminal case proceedings such that cases seemingly go on for an indefinite duration. I submit that for those challenging criminal accusations within such urban locations, the phrase, “justice delayed is justice denied,” could not be further from the truth.
In point of fact, delay can often serve the interests of the accused within a criminal case. For one able and willing to prolong legal proceedings, witness memory and or zeal to participate can often wane over time. Prosecutors burdened with tracking down such individuals while contending with a backlog of prosecutions are often in a weak position when considering the likelihood of a successful prosecution. Coupled with city jails often filled to capacity, experienced counsel can maneuver clients toward beneficial resolutions hard for defense lawyers to dictate in less congested courtroom jurisdictions.
Within these more populous urban environments attorneys quite justifiably serve their clients interests in manipulating the above referenced realities to their client’s advantage. Whether through a most favorable reduction in charges to case dismissals due to the inevitable non appearance of an essential state witness, judicial allowance for delay is one taken advantage of by many a skilled defense lawyer practicing within backlogged court jurisdictions.
One can do no more than speculate as to why this allowance for delay often exists in courts outside of Indiana. To cite but one example as highlighted within the New York Times article, in cities such as New York, issues such as unpredictable traffic congestion can often allow an attorney to cite an inability to arrive on court on time as a means by which to continue legal proceedings.
Not unlike the trickle down effect of how actual traffic congestion is created on our roadways, these delays create court traffic that must be diverted to different time slots when an attorney is unable to attend hearings due to elements outside of his or her control. In turn, judges on their own motions must continue future legal proceedings due to outside influences not necessarily attributable to the delay of the defense.
Relative to the court systems present within New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago or other densely populated cities, Indiana does not generally have these issues with court congestion. Even within Indiana’s largest city of Indianapolis, court congestion and jail overcrowding, although not ideal, have never grown to the epidemic proportions present elsewhere.
As such, prosecutors in rural Indiana frequently have more of an upper hand when it comes to dictating the terms of pre trial resolutions as attorneys are in no way given the wide latitude for delay present in urban jurisdictions.
Without the onset of recurrent court ordered delays due to case congestion, prosecutors are able to establish deadlines for the acceptance of pre trial agreements with the knowledge that judges in Indiana can actually commence trials on their slotted dates.
Witnesses and police officers are more readily corralled with the reality that true repercussion can result from non appearance for a court date that will in fact proceed as scheduled.
Each case and circumstance is different when assessing the costs and benefits of a delayed prosecution. A lawyer must always remember that both the liberty and finances of a client are at stake when defending a criminal case. Understanding legal procedure and time elements within the courtroom at hand is an essential component to properly advising a client whether appearing in New York City or Bloomington Indiana.