By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
It could be taking extra time to prepare. It could be strategy. It could be a red flag.
Taking Extra Time to Prepare
Your Lawyer should always obey “the carpenter’s rule.” Measure twice, cut once.
Some cases are just harder and more complex than others.
A sexual assault at a party with 8 witnesses (each with different accounts) takes some time to prepare. The prosecutor may be extremely dug in and there could be some complex legal issues as well.
A white-collar securities scheme with 3,400 documents to pour through can be tough too. Federal drug conspiracies where the lawyer gets a few hundred hours of wire-tap phone calls obviously take a while too.
These are all really valid reasons for delay.
Delay for Strategy
I’ve delayed cases for strategical reasons. It could be because my client has other pending legal matters which I’d like to get resolved first. It might be because I’m trying to expunge records in one county and I have to do so before my client’s case goes to trial in another county. A lawyer could even have a case delayed so their client can stay in the local jail with air conditioning during the summer knowing when the case was over they still had to go back to their prison unit without AC (I’m not saying I’ve done this and I’m not saying I haven’t, either!)
Sometimes it’s the Prosecution’s Fault
Sometimes the State isn’t ready. They need to do more investigation and/or preparation for their case to go to trial as well and the Judge allows them leeway the same way they allow us leeway. Lab testing blood in DWI cases and drugs can take months and months. It’s the speed of government.
When are Repeated Continuances a Red Flag?
Every case is it’s own snowflake. That said, if you have a relatively common case such as a DWI, assault, or drug charge and your lawyer is delaying, delaying, and delaying and the reasons don’t make sense — it could be something to become concerned about.
DWI, assault, drug and theft charges are extremely common and we handle lots of them. We know what we’re looking for to defend the cases and we’re quick to find and ferret-out the important issues. There are very few legal issues in Driving While Intoxicated cases, for instance, we haven’t seen before or know exactly where to look for the answer.
Many lawyers are simply over-worked. They use time poorly and “borrow from peter to pay paul” with their time. They are used to putting out the hottest fire every day — and when that case isn’t your case — you get to wait. Also many lawyers can get “paralysis by analysis.” That is they just can’t make a decision and they use delay because they can’t figure things out.
I should add many clients are okay with a slow pace in which case we accommodate this. It makes me think of when I was waiting for my bar results. I had a great time not knowing one way or another for 3 months. I just don’t like going to court and not accomplishing anything. I do see lawyers who just pass, and pass, and pass their cases over and over and I don’t get it. The courts do push lawyers to get cases through… but rarely should it get to that point.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He was designated as a Super Lawyer in 2019 by Thomson Reuters.