Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Attorney Ethics and Jurisdiction

Here's an interesting ethics question that came up in our practice. We have gotten a number of cases dismissed on "geographic jurisdiction" under Article 20 of the CPL. In short, our client is charged in a town, but it turns out that the location where the incident occurred is clearly in a different town.

When it's a simple traffic ticket the police are unlikely to reissue the ticket. It's just too much trouble to go and find the defendant and serve them again for something so minor.

What happens if your client flees the jurisdiction before any charges are refiled or served upon him? With a felony the client risks extradition, and that's no fun. With a misdemeanor, extradition is pretty unlikely.

What do the ethical rules say about advising your client on fleeing the jurisdiction? I don't see a clear answer.

The typical case where this arises is where the defendant lives here but has little or no ties to New York and can easily move back to their home state. If the defendant leaves and nothing happens after a couple years, there is a good chance of a speedy trial dismissal and the statute of limitations will have passed (on a misdemeanor).

An attorney should advise the client of all the consequences that might arise from any course of action. Where fleeing the jurisdiction has mostly positive consequences, it would seem that an attorney might even recommend it.

The problem is that this leaves a bad taste in the mouth, at least for some people.

So what do readers of the Albany Lawyer blog have to say? Please post your comments.
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