Fans of TV courtroom dramas are often led to believe that criminal trials can begin and end in a matter of days. In reality, they can and usually do take much longer -- even years, in some cases -- due to delays brought on by venue changes, new evidence or minute technicalities that are too boring or complicated to be included in any television show. This is especially true when it comes to white collar crimes.
In one real-life example, the case of a Milwaukee court commissioner has dragged on for more than 18 months, and the trial hasn't even begun yet. One reason for the holdup is a motion by the defendant's attorneys to suppress evidence against her. She's facing charges of income tax fraud, having been accused of underreporting her income for the years 2006 and 2007. The motion to exclude her tax returns from evidence stems from her attorneys' contention that the state violated its own laws and acted in bad faith when it used administrative subpoenas to obtain documents after criminal charges had already been filed.
The details may not sound very exciting, but the motion is significant. Exclusion of the tax returns could make a difference in whether the defendant goes to trial at all. One of the defendant's attorneys said a hearing on the motion was held last month and the judge presiding over the case is expected to rule on it in January or February.
Motions like these and the delays they cause can be excruciating for defendants in criminal cases. The stress of waiting to find out whether they'll be convicted is high enough even when a trial moves along quickly. Until a verdict is reached, defendants are forced to remain in limbo, wondering what their future holds. But it's in these cases where defendants must rely on the competence of their attorneys; the more complicated the issues are, the more skill and experience the defense requires.
Source: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Tax-fraud case against Milwaukee official drags on," Bruce Vielmetti, Dec. 25, 2012