Legal Questions? / Legal Answers!
Did The D.A. Offer To "File Your Case"?
"Have you ever gone to court on a criminal charge brought against you by the District Attorney's Office and plead not guilty? Have you ever gone back and had the District Attorney's office offer to "file your case" and not take you to court? The offer is usually "if you stay out of trouble for a year, the charge goes away." Who doesn't want to take a deal like that? However I found that if you agree to take a deal such as this you may find... that same charge ends up on your court records as a guilty plea! This offer was made to me and the "if I knew now what I didn't know then" really applies. I accepted their offer and my court appointed attorney did the rest. I found out years later, he did me no favor. I hope this information I have learned helps to ensure, this doesn't happen to you."
In 1978 at the age of 23, I did something that would define how the rest of my life would go. During a custody battle I took my son out of State and ended up being charged with criminal restraint. I had made sure that I wouldn't be charged with kidnapping. I was his father so I knew I couldn't be charge with that serious crime. However, at that time the District Attorney was Henry Berry. He was tired of Father's taking their kids from the other parent and stopped by my cell personally, to tell me so. I couldn't believe the D.A. actually took the time to stop by my cell. I found out why he made the trip. He went on to tell me he was sick of this type of crime and was going to make an "example" of me. I found out how serious he was. My bail was set at $200,000.00 double surety. I was shocked. I spent three days in jail and went to court two other times, to get the bail reduced. Each time it was reduced, I still could not get close to the bail amount to afford to get bailed out. Finally, at 4 P.M. on a Friday afternoon I got in front of a Superior Court Judge who looked at the charges and the bail amount and determined that "this is excessive bail". He then set my bail amount at $200.00. I was out of jail in an hour.
Have to tell you, my confidence in my legal knowledge took a bit of a hit on that one. When the District Attorney personally visits your cell and throws all that at you, you get a bit taken back. I never thought to look at the "legal" wrongs that were done to me, as far as the excessive bail amount. I was just happy to get out of jail after three days.
So, I went to court on the charges. The D.A. had subpoenaed my best friend as a witness.He had gone with me when I traveled out of State and he told me they were going to charge him as an accessory if he didn't testify. Their other witness was my ex-wife. As I sat there awaiting her arrival the District Attorney's office had called her twice. Both times they came out to tell me she was on her way. Finally, after waiting for two and a half hours I went to my Court Appointed Attorney and explained that I had a right to a speedy trial. "Go tell the D.A. let's get on with this". He went to talk to the D.A. and I told my best friend if the D.A. pressured him, to plead the 5th amendment. He didn't have to testify against himself, hence, they had no witnesses.
I was right. My Attorney came back and told me he had an offer. He told me and I quote: "They have offered to not proceed with the charges but will file the case instead." He went on to explain to me that "If you don't get into any trouble, relating to the same charge, this will just go away." I would never do this again and I knew it. So the deal sounded good to me. I agreed to it. I don't remember signing anything or even going in front of a judge, but I do remember that I was out of jail and charges were "dropped".. or so it seemed.
I went on to spend two and a half years at S.M.V.T.I. (now S.M.C.C.) taking Law Enforcement Tech. in hopes of a career in Law Enforcement. I moved to Springvale 4 years later and applied to the Sanford Police Department for a dispatcher position. I was refused that position because I was told, I had a criminal record. What? I sent away for my criminal record and found that the only charge listed on it, was that 4 year old criminal restraint charge that was "filed away." Wasn't that suppose to just "go away". How could this even be on my record when I never went in front of a judge? I trusted the Court Appointed Attorney and should have known better. I now could not engage in a Law Enforcement Career. I also found I had to explain the criminal charge years later, when I applied to became a Loss Prevention Manager.
"30 years later my son was offered the same deal on a different charge. I sat in his Attorney's office as he was told "they offered to file the charges. Stay out of trouble for a year and the charge will go away". I told my son's Attorney my experience of taking a deal like the one offered to my son and how taking that deal backfired on me. It was on my record all my life and held me back all these years.That "deal" went on to change the direction of my life."
" However my son's Attorney was now informing me that the reason the charge is still on my record, is because I did not go in and make sure it was removed. He told me that no computer or person was going to remember to automatically delete my charge after a year. It is my responsibility to go in and ensure it was removed. I also have learned you have a right to a copy of the paperwork that says it will be filed. Get that before you leave the courthouse, so you can ensure you have proof to show the clerk of courts, one year from the date of your "deal."
If you would like to comment feel free to e-mail me at
My Final Thought...
"I have to be honest. This decision I made
at that young age of 23 was a decision that
changed the direction my life. I have always
wondered what if, and probably always will.
However, I am pretty happy with the direction
my life ended up going. By the way, that
criminal restraint charge still is on my
record. At my age now and with my past experience,
I am finding that doesn't matter to most
employers. However, I still could not secure
employment in the Law Enforcement field if
I wanted to."