Interviewer: Can you tell me recently, in the past few months, the circumstances of any interesting cases?
Brian Sloan: I had a client that was charged with aggravated assault, vehicular aggravated assault. It was alleged that he was driving under the influence of alcohol, and that he got into a multi-car fender bender. It was the domino effect. He hit one car, and the car in front of that hit another car.
He was taken, if I remember correctly, he was taken to the hospital, and he was released. Then he stayed at his house for about six months. Never heard another thing about the incident and moved to California, where he lived his life out in the open for 17 years. He kept the same address and had a child.
Then, one day, he comes home with his now-17 year old child, and there are police officers in his yard with guns drawn taking him down and threw him to the ground and handcuffed him and try to bring him back to Arizona.
At this point, he has absolutely no idea what’s going on. They tried to extradite him to Arizona. He keeps fighting against it because he has no idea what’s going on, and they technically spelled his name wrong on the extradition and on the warrant. He keeps fighting it. Ultimately, he does end up back in Arizona and he ends up with a public defender.
Now, technically because of the charges, he’s looking at anywhere from five to fifteen years in prison. He was charged with aggravated assault injuries, that he injured another person while driving recklessly while using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, which they were arguing, was his vehicle.
Even though 17 years had passed, they basically blamed him for running away, which he left for California just as he had been planning to do prior to the car accident. Then when no charges were brought, nothing happened, he actually did go to court 17 years earlier, and they told him that the case was scratched.
He moved on with his life, and he moved to California and got a job and lived his life in the open.
Through an Agreement with the Public Defender’s Office, Attorney Sloan Works alongside Public Defenders for Clients with Unique Circumstances
Now, he’s in Arizona 17 years later. The public defender arranges for plea agreement for two and a half years in prison. The prosecutor really wants to punish him with years in prison and a felony on his record for a car accident that occurred 17 years earlier. The client decided to hire me on for what’s called Knapp Counsel. Basically, that allowed me to associate with the public defender’s office. Through that association, I received permission from the public defender to write motions and the permission to argue those motions.
Due Diligence—Did All Parties Involved Uphold Their Responsibilities?
I was asking for the case to be dismissed under an argument that’s called due diligence. The due diligence argument basically says that the prosecutors and the court and the officers have a duty to bring someone to trial. It is not enough to simply issue warrant and hope one day that the person gets picked up.
They actually have to take steps to try and find the person and bring him to justice, specifically to prevent a situation like what we have here; where a person moves on with their life and now, all of a sudden, 17 years later, you are trying to punish them for something that happened nearly two decades earlier.
We filed the motion, but there’s a lot on the line. If I win the motion, which I really should, that would be fantastic. My client gets off, no problems. If we lose the motion, then he’s going to have to go to trial; and it’s up to the jury to decide whether he gets anywhere from a day in jail up to 15 years in prison.
Instead of His Client Facing 15 Years in Prison, Attorney Sloan Negotiated a Plea for One Day with Time Served
I came in and I filed my motion and right on the verge of arguing the motion, I was able to negotiate a plea agreement for my client. Even though the crime was 17 years old, I was able to get my client only one day in jail with credit for time served and had the charge reduced to a misdemeanor.
If I wasn’t on board, if I wasn’t part of that case, I think the public defender would have probably pushed in for two and a half years in prison.
The Knapp Counsel
The Knapp Counsel is based on a case called Knapp versus Harvey that says that if a person, who is themselves indigent and therefore acquires the services of a public defender’s office, if they have a friend or family that is interested in hiring a private attorney and has the means to hire a private attorney, it doesn’t take away from the defendant’s indigence themselves.
It is okay for the defendant to be indigent and have a public defender, while the family hires a private attorney to associate with and assist the public defender in the joint representation of the client. It’s not really a joint representation. The public defender is definitely the lead attorney, and the private attorney assists the public defender lead attorney.