I am continually amazed at how often people make bad situations worse. We see this very often when people flee the scene of an accident, evade a police officer, or fail to show up for their traffic tickets.
I was presiding over a misdemeanor jury trial. The defendant was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, violation of a protective order, vandalism, and driving on a suspended license.
(Important side note on protective orders: I have issued hundreds of protective orders in domestic violence cases. I order the defendant to have no contact whatsoever, directly or indirectly, and stay at least 100 yards away from the victim, her residence, and place of employment. We use “100 yards” because most people are familiar with the length of a football field. I also order the defendant to surrender any guns to a police department within 24 hours and provide proof to me within 48 hours.)
(These orders give solace to the victims. However, they do not guarantee safety. I emphasize to the victims that my protective order is a piece of paper, and it will not stop a knife or a gun. If the defendant violates my order in any way, the victim should immediately get to a place of safety and call the police. Don’t wave the order in front of a hostile defendant. When the police verify my order via their computers they will track down the defendant and make an arrest.)
The defendant was late on the first day of trial. I threatened him by telling him that if he were one minute late the next day, I would take him into custody. (I hate wasting the jurors valuable time.)
The defendant took my threat a little too seriously. He didn’t have time to take a cab or bus in order to be on time. (This was before Uber and Lyft.) So instead, he stole a car and drove to court. But he arrived on time.
In addition, on this second day the domestic violence victim did not show up. The DA sent investigators to track her down before I issued a warrant for her arrest. When she arrived, several hours late, we asked her why she was late. She explained that in the early morning hours, the defendant confronted her. He demanded that she change her story and lie on his behalf. When she refused he choked her. Then he grabbed a kitchen knife and threatened to kill her if she showed up for trial and testified against him.
Instead of taking the victim into custody for non-compliance with her subpoena, I immediately remanded the defendant into custody and set a high bail. The DA then filed a new felony domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon, witness intimidation, and auto theft charges, all felonies. In response I issued a “no bail hold,” which meant no matter how much money the defendant could come up with, he was not going to be released from jail.
The defendant had no prior convictions and my sentence in the misdemeanor trial case would not have resulted in jail time. Now the defendant faced several years in state prison. He made a bad situation much worse. Amazing!
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