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The Right Way to Do Criminal Defense vs. The Wrong Way to Do Criminal Defense

I was in CCB* Tuesday on a motion to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor and expunge an old felony conviction for a client. When I first met the client, I told him that there is a right way and a wrong way to run this motion. The wrong way is to fill out the form and mail it in to the court with the $120 filing and wait and see what happens. In fact, a few years ago, another lawyer had been paid by this client to do this very same thing. That lawyer’s requests were denied, mine were granted. Why is that?

I filed a formal motion, with a declaration by me and another declaration by my client. The declarations under penalty of perjury described in detail why this motion should be granted, even though it was denied last time. Attached to my motion was about 20 character letters from friends, co-workers, customers, religious leaders and even family members of my client. Present with us in court on the day of the hearing were my client’s wife and adult son.

This is the second motion of this nature which I have done this year where the judge wanted to hear directly from my client. Both judges had the client’s sworn in and put them on the witness stand. From there, the judge, the prosecutor and I all asked the client questions to shed light on the specific facts of each case. After multiple sessions of argument by the prosecution and the defense, the judge ultimately granted my motion and ordered the case to be a misdemeanor for all purposes and expunged.

But why was my motion granted and the other lawyer’s denied? Is it because I’m a smarter guy or because I know the judge? No, it’s because I did things the right way and the old lawyer tried to take the lazy way out. It’s because I know, after 20 years of practicing law, it’s harder for a judge to say “no” to your face than it is if you mail in the paperwork. It’s because by humanizing my client with his son and his wife, and himself dressed up in a nice suit, the judge saw the sympathetic side of my client, he felt empathy toward my client’s family. This was the difference between winning and losing. With my client in court, and a solid knowledge of the underlying case, the probation violation case, the facts surrounding my client’s life and the terms and conditions of probation, I was able to articulate for the judge, why he should grant my motion after his counterpart had previously chosen not to do.

Does this type of result happen every time for me? Of course it doesn’t. Every case is different. Every case has to be analyzed for its own merits and pitfalls. However, the odds of winning or improving the outcome for client can be increased by taking a few simple steps. By getting to know my client, I gain insight not only into the facts of the case, but I also learn about the uniqueness of each client. I learn about my clients’ families, their jobs, their upbringing, their hobbies and interests, military status, citizenship status, mental and physical health issues and more.

This is one of many things which set me apart from inferior lawyers. Competent lawyers do their jobs. Superior lawyers do their jobs well. From time to time my young associate comes back from court unhappy with the outcome of a case. I ask him not if he could have done anything different or better on the case. Rather, I ask him if ANY lawyer could have done something different or better on the case. If the answer is “no”, then we can be satisfied. We can be satisfied that everything that could have been done for the client, was done for the client. And in doing this we know that we achieved the best possible results for each client.

*Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, formerly known as Criminal Courts Building or CCB is Los Angeles County’s Central Criminal Court in Downtown Los Angeles.

I have to run because my client from Tuesday is calling me. He wants me to start a certificate of rehabilitation for him. But, If you or someone close to you are looking for a criminal or DUI defense attorney that does more than hold your hand and walk you through the process, call me:

Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-6473 or (888) 764-4340 or

Email me at: or visit my sites for more information: or