Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Legislature's Bill Moving Forward to Eliminate Depositions for Third Degree Felony Prosecutions

Brian Tannenbaum and the BACDL have been out there presenting themselves as an effective lobbying force to help the criminal defense bar as well as their clients.

Trying to adopt the policy utilized to curtail discovery in misdemeanors, some date legislators are proposing a bill to ban depositions for third degree felonies. The measure passed 5-3 in a Florida Legislature a Sub committee. There is reason to be concerned. The federal courts do it. Legislators have a disconcerting precedent.

The defense bar has been organized and pro active in attempting to stop this plan. Good for them. Congratulations to its leaders. Why would the state want to do this? Why would the people elected to protect the rights of citizens want to develop legal processes which inhibit their rights at a time and moment, after an arrest, when they most need to be protected?

There is no good reason to justify the inhibition of discovery in criminal cases. Not money. Not time. Not expedience. Our system is designed to be about justice. It started with misdemeanors; a little bit more understandable. But felonies? When you face mandatory adjudications on a host of crimes? You would have to plead to take a cop’s depo on a battery charge? You are going to create more abuses of discretion and more time consuming motions by having to petition for something which is already routine. Stop the insanity and join with the BACDL in opposing this bill. And kudos to Brian Tannenbaum for covering these updates on his blog.

I think Rumpole’s ‘Justice Building Blog’ in Dade made another interesting case. If you want to eliminate depos in third degree felonies, re-evaluate first whether too many crimes are so classified unnecessarily. Ask whether we as a society, in our unsuccessful attempts to control crime, have not ‘over-felonized’ too many offenses which should be otherwise treated.

I think you can make a strong argument that a host of drug crimes, check charges, and burglaries can be reduced to misdemeanors warranting treatment instead of felonies warranting incarceration. If we are looking for better ideas, it may not be taking away the rights of defense attorneys and their clients. It might be taking away some of the excessive powers invested in prosecutors and law enforcement. Maybe that is why one in one hundred Americans are on felony probation. Not because we are a bad people but we have bad laws.

And as long as I am blogging about depositions, just what is the clerk doing to end the insane practice of naming law enforcement officers as felons for missing depos? I can't believe that the Daily Business Review or the Sun Sentinel has not picked up on this story which represents a clerical abuse worthy of a class action against the clerk's office. It has known about this practice for years. Here is my blog from a few weeks ago about the injustice:

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