Natty Shafer Law

Utah lawyer for criminal and immigration cases

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Smaller is Better!

According to the Utah Bar Association, the number one official complaint they receive about lawyers is that a lawyer did not return the client’s phone calls or emails. A large percentage of attorney-client problems stem from poor communication. That has not a problem for me. I do not have a secretary; I answer all my calls and write my emails. If I miss a call, I call the person back within a matter of hours.

Regardless of the type of case, people hire a lawyer for a reason. Usually, that is because they do not understand what exactly to expect or how to proceed. When people hire a lawyer that does not communicate, the legal job may be done sufficiently, but that does not mean the client’s mind will be at ease during the process. How much money is it worth to the average person to avoid the dread of the unknown? To avoid worry about what, exactly, their lawyer is doing for them?

When you hire a lawyer at a small firm like Natty Shafer Law, you do not have to worry about an associate lawyer (or worse, a paralegal) doing all the work and then the lawyer signing off on everything. I write my own briefs, fill out my own paperwork, and schedule my own appointments. Phone calls and emails are always returned, usually the same day. I talk to my clients about what to expect and what specifically I am doing for them. Good communication and client peace of mind are what makes the difference at Natty Shafer Law.

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Meeting People on Their Worst Days

Compassion is a necessary part of being a criminal defense lawyer. We meet people on some of the worst days of their lives. Regardless of whether or not they are guilty, being charged criminally is a scary situation. My first job when meeting a new client is to reassure them that all hope is not lost, and they are taking the right steps to secure the best outcome possible for their case.

The next step is to dispel misconceptions. Criminal law is unusual in that unlike other legal fields, most people think they have a pretty good handle on the legal process. TV shows generally cut out the tedium of court appearances, filing motions, or waiting for the next court date. TV shows also tend to focus on the most serious crimes, which are a small percentage of all criminal cases prosecuted. I see it as my job to explain the law to my clients and explain possible outcomes to them with compassion and understanding.

During that conversation about the law, I let my clients explain to me about their personal lives. There is no greater expert on what clients want than the clients themselves. People have different expectations and desires when they hire an attorney. Some clients want to see a case concluded as soon as possible. It is my job to explain the possible drawbacks and balance their desires against the need to have a favorable outcome. Other clients want to fight every step of the way. Because I enjoy going to trial, that is a desire I am willing to accommodate. All people charged with a crime should make sure they hire a lawyer willing to listen and willing to walk them through the legal process. A good lawyer has the ability to make the worst day of someone’s life just a little bit better.

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The Slow Wheels of Justice

It can take a significant period of time for a criminal case to resolve. The initial appearance in court can be weeks after an arrest, and then there may be several more dates after that (preliminary hearings, pretrial conferences, and suppression hearings are among the more common pretrial court appearances in Utah). Each court date can be weeks or months apart, meaning months or years can pass between an initial arrest and the final disposition of the case.

Crime shows on TV often say, “delay is always good from the defense.” I am not so sure. That may be the case in certain types of cases that require a lot of witnesses the government needs to contact and ensure they remain willing to testify. Most cases have just a few witnesses, which usually include government employees, such as the arresting officer, and the prosecutor can easily contact all of them. Many cases have just one civilian witness and some cases, like a DUI case, might involve no civilians. Government employees are often paid their normal salary to testify, especially if it is part of their work description as lab technicians or law enforcement officers.

Many prosecutors are in no particular hurry to resolve cases. The more populated counties in Utah have multiple prosecutors in each department and a different prosecutor might handle each court hearing for an individual case. Prosecutors are evaluated on the outcomes of cases and not necessarily on how long it takes for each case to resolve. Consequently, a prosecutor has less incentive to hurry and close a case than to make sure each case sees a favorable outcome for the government; a prosecutor could get in trouble for giving a favorable settlement to the defendant, but prolonging a low profile case for many months is rarely going to be an issue for the bosses.

Defendants, on the other hand, have every reason to want a case to come to a close. The defendant is expected to appear at each court date, possibly requiring time off work. Each appearance involves some degree of stress because it is impossible to know what will happen in court. I try to reassure my clients about the most likely outcomes, but it is hard for people to stay positive in an unfamiliar situation. I have had some clients lose their motivation to fight any longer, particularly in misdemeanor cases. Often their lives have more or less remained unchanged after the arrest, but they are tired of the hassle of repeated appearances in court. (Unfortunately, many consequences of a misdemeanor conviction do not manifest until many years later.) For defendants who are in police custody, taking a plea deal will mean there is a definitive end to incarceration instead of endless court dates eroding morale.

A client has the constitutional right to decide whether or not to accept any given plea deal. A lawyer must abide by that decision, but I will encourage a client to keep fighting if I think it is in the client’s best interest. The bottom line: patience will help get the best outcome.


Chief Justice Roberts Rehabilitates My Faith in the Judiciary

I won’t say my faith is completely restored, but Chief Justice Roberts went a long way towards rehabilitation my faith in the Supreme Court. (Justice Scalia, on the other hand, is irredeemably partisan and unprincipled.) With the Chief Justice’s opinion on the Obamacare case, we now know that there are at least a couple conservatives on the Court who make decisions based on principles, instead of what is best for the Republican party.

Back in April, I worried that the Court would make a decision based on bad principles. I don’t entirely agree with the Court’s decision, but I have no doubt that Chief Justice Roberts arrived there through a principled, logical thought process.

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Your Defense Lawyer Should Be a Pragmatist

Utah defense lawyers frequently meet people on the worst days of their lives. A prospective client wants to hear good news, and we really want to give it. However, despite the temptation, I try not to get a client’s hopes up. It would be easy to tell them that if they just hire me everything will come out perfectly, but I don’t think that’s fair.

Unfortunately, the Utah criminal justice system is stacked against defendants. The punishments for crimes continue to skyrocket, with the average sentence for most crimes being two to four times what they were back in the 60s, and everything is illegal now. Judges throughout Utah frequently forsake their duty to be neutral and consistently favor the prosecution; prosecutors forsake their duty to seek justice and focus on winning at all cost; and Utah jurors tend to think a defendant is guilty just by virtue of the fact he is on trial, without hearing the evidence.

Which is not to say that beating a criminal charge is impossible to do in the state of Utah. The truth is, I think I’m a great lawyer. I love going to trial, and love being more prepared for my case than the prosecution. Defense lawyers that promise you the moon may not have the time or energy to devote to your case, but I never take more cases than I can handle. If you hire a defense lawyer who promises you too much, she’s probably promising her other clients too much as well and won’t have the time to devote to your case. You want a lawyer who will be realistic in his time management.

You also want a lawyer who remembers that the job of a defense lawyer is to get the best outcome possible for your case. While that could be working towards getting you a “not guilty” verdict in a trial, it could also involve accepting a plea offer that avoids jail time. You want a lawyer who will realistically appraise your case and give you honest advice. Some lawyers let their emotions get the best of them and they become focused on beating the prosecution instead of doing what is best for their client. A level-headed, compassionate lawyer is going to get you the best possible outcome for your criminal case.

I am a compassionate, pragmatic lawyer. For a level-headed criminal lawyer in the state of Utah, contact me today.

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Be Like Bill Clinton

Last night I watched Clinton on the American Experience. Putting aside his womanizing, I realized that Bill Clinton is the perfect model for “The Lawyer Who Hugs.” Bill Clinton has a preternatural ability to empathize and care for people who have vastly different lives. He meets people, and he cares for them deeply. People strongly feel his empathy and understand that he cares about them. While I would never presume to compare myself to the master, that is what I aspire to do with my law practice—to make my clientele understand how deeply I want the best possible outcome for both them and their case.

The other thing about Clinton, though, is that he has an ability to stand-up to his detractors and enemies. While he was in office, he prevented his political opponents from rolling-over him. During the American Experience episode, Sidney Blumenthal says that Clinton’s opponents “believed that he was soft, that he could be pushed around, and that they could have their way. They believed that he lacked the confidence to stand up to them.” Newt Gingrich thought that Bill Clinton would capitulate to his legislative agenda, but Clinton persevered; Gingrich thought he had the upper-hand during the government shutdown of 1995, but Clinton won that particular showdown. I, too, endeavor to be strong when negotiating with my legal opponents.

The American Experience also has a cautionary tale. Clinton was most effective when he was pragmatic and worked towards accomplishing modest, feasible goals. After his political defeat with his health care bill, he went back to more modest goals, like trying to hire more local police officers. I want to remain grounded in pragmatism as well. I promise to work hard to get the best possible outcome for my clientele, but sometimes the best possible outcome is not a perfect outcome. From time-to-time, that may entail urging a client to take a plea or to accept the slow deliberation of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But always, I will care about my clientele.

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The Job of a Defense Attorney

A couple weeks ago, my father was watching the news and asked me how I would like to defend Josh Powell in court. Implicit in the question was that I should hate to have a client like him, but I can truthfully say that it would not bother me.

Defense attorneys are frequently asked, “How do you defend people who are guilty?” For me, at least, I am more bothered about defending people who are almost certainly innocent. The deck is stacked against defendants, and many jurors unfortunately believe that someone is guilty just because a prosecutor has brought charges. Different prosecutors have different criteria for deciding whether or not to bring charges. Unfortunately, there are prosecutors who bring charges against people they know could be innocent. And it breaks my heart to know that many of them will have their lives unfairly ruined.

But defense attorneys spend the majority of their time defending people who are probably guilty. That’s something that many people find distasteful, but it’s something that I long ago came to terms with. I certainly don’t spend any time worrying whether or not a particular client is guilty. Every defense attorney is different, but here are a few of the reasons that I enjoy my job.

Most people misunderstand the job of a defense attorney. They think our only goal is to get a “not guilty” verdict for someone. That could be what I’m trying to get in a particular case, but usually I am working to get the best possible resolution for my client. In the case of a murder suspect like Josh Powell, the best resolution could be saving his life and avoiding the death penalty. Every case is different, but often the best possible resolution will still mean some level of punishment.

Jails and prisons are nasty, awful places, and sending people to them doesn’t serve anyone. It’s bad for society, it’s bad for the person in jail, and it’s bad for their families. Some may balk at the idea that prisons are bad for society, but they are. Prisons don’t reform people, and instead make them bitter. Also, the vast majority of crimes are drug related, which prison does little-to-nothing to address. I have no ethical qualms about trying to find an alternative punishment for someone. In nearly every instance, society and justice would be better served through an alternative punishment.

Next, I love the Bill of Rights. The First Congress, which wrote the Bill of Rights, decided the rights of the accused are important enough to devote three Constitutional Amendments to them. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to a lawyer. Not many people can say their job is specifically enshrined in the Constitution.

Due to the adversarial system of justice the United States has chosen, someone needs to speak for the accused, and I am happy to do it. There are many other reasons I could name, but these reasons are the most important to me. If you ever are accused of a crime, you’ll understand how important it is to have a defense attorney who cares about you and cares about getting you the pest possible resolution.

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Commanding yet Caring

The motto of Natty Shafer Law is “The Lawyer Who Hugs.” But don’t get the mistaken idea that that means I’ll be anything other than strong in advocating my client’s positions. Because I care about my clients, I work hard to ensure that they receive the best possible resolution to their case. Sometimes that means taking abuse from the opposing lawyers or from judges. My love for my clients keeps me strong and commanding in the face of opposition.

I am a Utah native and understand the local quirks of life along the Wasatch front. For a strong advocate in immigration or criminal law, contact me today.


Why am I “The Lawyer Who Hugs”?

I am a person who likes to give hugs. Hugging is a simple action we can all do to show each other that we care and we understand. The importance of human touch tends to be under-appreciated, but it improves the emotional and physical well-being of all participants.

If you are in need of a criminal or immigration lawyer, you’ll want a lawyer who sympathizes with you. I’ll not only be your advocate in court, I’ll also work to understand you and to care about you, as a person. My job will not be to pre-judge for actions you may or may not have committed, but rather to ensure the best disposition of your case possible. For a lawyer in Salt Lake City that cares about you, contact Natty Shafer Law.