One of the most frequent questions I receive from clients and prospective clients is, "how long will this process take?"
I completely understand the urgency. One of the worst things we as human beings fear is uncertainty. Can you imagine having a pending criminal charge just hanging over your head? It will occupy your mind every hour of the day. It will keep you awake at night.
Even minor offenses and misdemeanors are enough to drive some people into a constant state of anxiety. They want to know when their nightmare will end.
The truth is, sometimes time is your friend. Time for cooler heads to prevail, especially if there is a victim involved. A victim, whom the prosecutor will consult with prior to deciding how to resolve your case, may want the maximum sentence a few days after the incident; but as weeks, even months, pass by, they may not really have an opinion anymore. This waiting period, while painful for the accused, can be the difference between prison and probation.
So the answer I always give when asked how long the criminal case will take is, "however long it has to."
I want the BEST outcome for my clients. Not the fastest. And believe me, the fastest outcome is almost never the best outcome.
Being charged with a crime will likely be the most frightening experience of your life. It's okay to admit that it's very traumatic to get arrested, to read a police report filled with awful accusations. To appear before a judge and have a prosecutor file charges against you than can carry years in prison.
If you go to court and have another court date scheduled (which happens nearly all the time), it may be several months before your case will be heard again - giving you nothing but time to sit and worry.
Attorneys are not trained psychologists. Some can be downright rude and lack sympathy. I disagree with that approach. I have spent countless hours just talking to clients, hearing out their fears and offering what consolation I can given my experience.
You paid your attorney, don't be afraid to give he or she a call and discuss your fears. Ask them to be honest and realistic with you. The greatest fear we can have is of the unknown. If you expect to receive probation in your case, you can begin to convince yourself (rightly) that probation isn't so bad.
But in order to guarantee an outcome that poses the least severe consequences to your freedom and future, you need to trust your attorney to do their job and you must give them the time needed to successfully resolve your case.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach.