How Long Does a Case Take?
Lake County is probably one of the quickest case management jurisdictions in the state, but the quickest cases can still take at least 3-5 months to be resolved.
Once someone has gone through the arraignment process and pleaded not guilty, the state will have a few weeks to turn over all discovery in the case to the defendant’s attorney, including police reports, lab reports, witness statements, the person’s own statements or hospital records; any evidence they plan to use against the defendant. It’s not like TV, where there are mystery witnesses; the state is under obligation to turn over all evidence, and they cannot ambush the defendant with new evidence at trial, because the judge will be obliged to bar it.
What that means is the defendant and their attorney has to be able to go over all of the evidence and figure out which appropriate motions should be filed. For example, some evidence may have been illegally seized, or there may be statements that should be suppressed because police obtained them through coercion, such as threatening someone with the loss of their children. All those motions will require hearings and there will have to be more pre-trial meetings to see if the case resolution can be negotiated before trial.
Do All Cases Go To Trial?
In my experience about 95 percent of cases do not go to trial and the reason is usually because of the discovery rules; if everyone knew all of the evidence the other side had, it would be clear early on which side would win in each case.
There is no sense playing poker if the other player has four aces, and the defendant has nothing and that’s why attorneys go into damage control mode and try to negotiate the best possible case result for their client; they have no desire to simply roll the dice and hope for the best.
There are certain exceptions to the rule; if someone is charged with a murder or something else and the prosecutor made no offer, there is nothing to lose, and the attorney will have to make the state prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is where an experienced attorney is better than someone fresh out of law school; an inexperienced attorney may allow evidence to get in that should not, and keep in mind, the judge isn’t allowed to help. That’s why it’s critical to have an experienced, competent defense attorney on your side.
Can an Experienced Attorney Predict How Certain Judges Will Rule in Certain Situations?
Of course, no one can guarantee anything, but one of the benefits of having an experienced attorney is the ability to predict how a judge will act in certain situations. I’ve been working in the same courts for 35 years now, so I know all the judges and their idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. I know who is tougher on sex cases and who is tougher on drug cases, so it gives the defendant an advantage. It’s helpful to know everyone in the court deals with things, because they will know the best course of action in each situation.
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