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Friday ruminations

All about me.  Ever have one of those months where you sit there on the first, look at all you've got to do, and say, "Well, if I can just get through this month, things should ease up a bit."  I'm been having one of those months since July.  Not really complaining; business is good.  Unfortunately, I've noticed that the correlation between how hard you work and how much money you make often tends to be an inverse one.

Got another tough one coming up, but I'm going to try to spend a little more time here.  I've been writing a lot of briefs (about 90 pages of them this month), and I like doing that, but I like writing here more.  Less formulaic.  Besides, I can't post links to pictures of nekkid wimmen in my briefs.

Oh, jeez, that didn't come out right, did it?

Two arguments.  I had two oral arguments on Tuesday afternoon.  Big week; I've got another this morning, in a case where the defendant was convicted of sending dick pix to his coworkers.  Here's a tip, guys (no pun intended):  a picture of a paunchy, fifty-eight-year-old man's erect penis - such as it was - has an arousal factor seriously south of zero.

Anyway, the first argument on Tuesday was on the consecutive sentences of 26 years handed down on a guy convicted of rape, robbery, kidnapping, and some other stuff. 

The 34 common pleas judges here have widely disparate approaches toward sentencing.  I've seen them handled in as little as two or three minutes, even ones that involve a prison sentence.  It's longer if the victims and the defendant's family make statements.  And it's longer still when the judge does a thorough job of explaining why he's imposing a particular sentence.

This judge did.  The sentencing hearing took an hour and a half.  It was very obvious that the judge put a lot of thought into the sentence he imposed. 

The second argument was on the notorious driving privilege case that's engendered so much controversy and media coverage.  (And yes, I'm waxing sarcastic.)  Yanira King pled out to a 5th degree drug offense, which at the time (see below) required a mandatory driver's license suspension.  Shortly after sentencing, King's lawyer filed a motion for driving privileges.  The judge granted it, for purposes of going to work, school, or medical appointments, and for "grocery shopping and paying bills."

Oh, the humanity!  The State appealed the next day, asserting as its sole assignment of error that "the trial court abused its discretion in granting driving privileges for purposes of grocery shopping and paying bills."

As I wrote once before, I'd stab myself in the head before I'd write an assignment of error like that.  But here's the kicker:  the journal entry contained no order suspending her license.  In short, the driving privileges were irrelevant; any cop who stopped her wouldn't even ask about privileges, because it wouldn't show that she had a suspended license.

One of the judges hammered on the prosecutor about this, one honed in on me as to whether we needed to follow the law regardless of the mootness issue, and one didn't tip his hand.  We'll see what happens.

But during all this, I thought, fifteen minutes ago I was arguing about a prison sentence on a 22-year-old man which would see him getting out of prison at age 48.  And here I am talking about whether a woman should be allowed to drive to the grocery store.

God, I love the law.

 Good news.  The kicker on my driving privileges case was that the law's been changed since my client was sentenced.

Over the last fifteen years, the legislature has slowly come around to the realization that suspending people's drivers' licenses for drug offenses was stupid.  It doesn't keep them from doing or dealing drugs; it does keep them from going to jobs, which is much healthier and more productive than doing or dealing drugs.  In its original version, the statute didn't even allow for driving privileges.  That changed a few years back, and in September, the law was amended to make the suspension discretionary instead of mandatory. 

And according to the prosecutor who gave the oral argument in my case - I'm too lazy to look it up - it's also been amended to allow granting driving privileges for any purpose.  I'm not sure why they did that, given that imposition of the suspension is discretionary.  It doesn't make much sense for a judge to say, "I'm going to suspend your license, but you can drive anywhere you want."  Then again, for the Ohio legislature, "making sense" doesn't seem to be a pre-requisite for anything they do.

The other bit of good news was the judicial release statute was modified in September, too.  Under the old law, the time for calculating when you could file the motion was the day you arrived at the prison.  It's been changed so that the time to file begins to run on the date you're incarcerated; in other words, you get jail time "credit" toward judicial release.  That's only for sentences of five years or more.  Under the old law, let's say you spent four months in jail awaiting trial, and then were given an eight-year sentence.  You could file for judicial release after five years, but that was five years after you hit the institution.  Now, the jail time counts, so you can file four years and eight months after arriving at Casa Kasich

Pretty sweet, huh?  That sure makes up for adding 50% to gun specs and creating the "violent career criminal" offense.

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