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Risks Inherent When Relying on Public Defender’s Office

Kern County’s Public Defender’s Office appears to be pushed to the brink in terms of their ability to competently handle their caseload.

It is no secret that, over the past couple of years, a huge number of experienced and highly competent attorneys have left the Kern County Public Defender’s Office for private practice. And that Office has responded by repeatedly hiring fresh batches of new attorneys, usually straight out of law school, or with very little criminal defense experience. While this mentality certainly saves money, it leaves clients who depend on the service of the Public Defender (mainly for relatively minor offenses such as DUI, narcotics possession and sales, theft, spousal abuse or domestic violence, etc.) with added risks in their criminal cases that are already fraught with inherent potential pitfalls. Let me refer to two cases that I have handled just within the past week that prove my point:

Late last week a new client came in with a very straightforward possession of narcotics (H&S 11379 and H&S 11377) case. The case had been filed with the court in November. The client had been to court at least three separate times and each time the case was continued because she had not yet spoken with her assigned public defender, despite making numerous attempts and leaving several un-returned voice mail messages.

Another case that I inherited from the Public Defender’s Office in November when it was set for jury trial was dismissed today after only my third appearance. Not because of any magic trick or loophole that I was able to find, but rather simply because I had the time to take the extra step that the Public Defender did not.

The point is, when caseloads get so big that individual clients and cases are neglected, either in terms of client contact or preparation, it is the clients who suffer. Having an attorney who doesn’t have time to return calls and can only speak to you in court is nearly akin to having no attorney at all. Likewise, pushing a case to the brink of trial because even an experienced attorney doesn’t have the time or resources to “turn over every stone” is an unnecessary addition of risk to an already inherently risky situation.

To be fair though, the Kern County Public Defender’s Office does have a small core of dedicated and HIGHLY professional, experienced, and competent criminal defense attorneys and support staff; however, those attorneys are almost always assigned only the most serious and complex criminal cases.  If you or someone you know has been charged with a relatively minor offense (DUI, narcotics possession and sales, theft, spousal abuse or domestic violence, etc.), there can still be some very serious consequences.  Don’t take chances if you don’t have too! Hire an experienced and respected criminal defense attorney.  CALL THE LAW OFFICE OF JOEL E. LUECK TODAY

The Benefit of Hiring a Respected, Local Attorney

In communities such as Bakersfield, many people who are faced with the need to hire a criminal defense attorney mistakenly believe that retaining a “Big City” attorney from Los Angeles gives them a better chance at successfully defending themselves.  Unfortunately, often times this could not be further from the truth.  As a case in point, consider the circumstances of Mike R., a resident of Los Angeles who was stopped in Kern County on his way to the Bay Area.  After being pulled over for DUI, Mike was also found to be in possession of Ecstasy.  He was arrested and charged with Transportation of a Controlled Substance (Health & Safety Code section 11379) and DUI (Vehicle Code section 23152) among other charges.  Due to the fact that he had a Strike Prior and had been sentenced to prison within the past five years, he was facing a potential sentence of 9 years in state prison.  Initially, Mike was represented by an attorney from Los Angeles.  That attorney represented him through the preliminary hearing stage, but in an effort to settle the case before trial, was only able to obtain an offer from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office of 4 years in prison.  Realizing that a local attorney may benefit him, Mike retained the Law Office of Joel E. Lueck and today was placed on probation and sentenced to 6 MONTHS in county jail.

The point is that although every county is bound by the laws of the State of California, each county interprets and applies those laws differently.  Having an attorney who practices in the community and has a proven track record of success is what those charged with crimes should look for, rather than falling prey to the mistaken belief that an attorney from Los Angeles is their best option simply based upon the location of their office.

Reckless Response to Service Call vs. Reckless Evasion of Officer

The Bakersfield Californian is reporting that the recent accident involving a Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy and two pedestrians (which resulted in the deaths of those pedestrians) was a result of the officer responding to a report of a stolen vehicle. Whether or not the officer’s siren and emergency lights were activated at the time of the accident is still unknown (to the public). The story is tragic in every respect and one can only hope that Sheriff Donny Youngblood is sincere when he says the department as a whole is deeply saddened by the deaths. Unfortunately, this evokes memories of similar incidents in which innocent pedestrians have been killed during police pursuits of fleeing criminal suspects. Understandably, the public outrage directed to the defendants in those cases was harsh, as was the response of both law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office in their prosecution of the defendants. At this point, given the public comments posted in relation to the story, it appears that at least the public is concerned about the prudence (or lack thereof) of the officer’s actions. One can hope that that level of concern is mirrored within the District Attorney’s Office once the investigation is complete and the case is submitted for a determination of whether or not to file criminal charges.