As the old proverb goes, "the early bird gets the worm." We have all heard this saying countless times throughout our lives. Recently, however, one of my criminal clients realized an unexpected benefit when he arrived early to his court date.
For purposes of this story and to honor the attorney-client privilege, we'll refer to this client as John. John was on probation and recently had violated the conditions of that probation. In the simplest of terms, John hired me to keep him out of jail and convince the Judge to let him continue probation. However, after the first two court dates, it seemed that the Judge had different plans, namely, a jail sentence.
Fast-forward to a few days before the revocation hearing. As I spoke with John about our strategy to keep him out of lockup, it was obvious that he was extremely nervous. He had never been to jail before and was (for lack of a better term) freaking out, as any person in his position would have been. As we finished our conversation, I told John (as I do all my clients), to arrive 15 to 20 minutes early to court so that he can find parking and calm his nerves before heading into the courtroom.
John went above and beyond my advice and arrived nearly 40 minutes before his hearing was scheduled to start. As the hearing began and the judge began contemplating a sentence, it was obvious that he wanted to make sure John appreciated the seriousness of his violations and the possible resultant consequences. The Judge then alluded to his concerns that a lot of defendants do not fully appreciate the fact that they can, and in many cases, will do jail time if they violate their probation. That is, some defendants think that they can violate, apologize to the Judge for doing so, and be on their way, avoiding jail and continuing with their probation.
However, in this case, the Judge no longer had these concerns. He explained that when he arrived to the courthouse that morning, he saw John getting dropped off by his wife. He then observed John--who knew from our conversations that if he was sent to jail his street clothes would be exchanged for a detention center jumpsuit--remove his belt and hand it to his wife. The Judge interpreted this act (and was correct in doing so) to mean that John fully expected to be sent to jail after his hearing.
In the end, the Judge allowed John to continue his probation and avoid going to jail. While I like to think that it was mainly my powers of persuasion that kept John a free man, his arriving early and the Judge's chance spotting of him outside the courthouse undoubtedly helped. Thus, at least in this case, the proverb above could be modified to state: "The early defendant avoids jail."