How’d you like to go to jail for picking up garbage. 30 days of jail. What if picking up garbage was your job? Kevin McGill, a sanitation worker in an Atlanta suburb has been charged criminally and sentenced to 30 days in jail for doing his job too early in the morning. Kevin should have hired a lawyer.
Mr. McGill was cited for violating an ordinance in a wealthy suburb which prohibits garbage collection before 7 am. Mr. McGill had worked for the sanitation department for three months and had never before been cited for any violation.
Instead of going to court with an experienced criminal defense attorney, Mr. McGill went with a representative from his company who later claimed he was only expecting a fine to be imposed.
Chief prosecutor Bill Riley admitted that the jail sentence was his idea because “fines don’t seem to work…The only thing that seems to stop the activity is actually going to jail.” Jail. For doing his job and picking up trash?!
After taking Kevin’s guilty plea, the court heard from Mr. Riley who claimed there was “automatic jail time for violators” of the noise ordinance. Kevin was “stunned” when he learned he might have to serve jail time for collecting garbage too early.
When Riley asked for the maximum punishment for Kevin, which was 30 days in jail, the judge granted the request without hesitation. Although Kevin tried to explain to the prosecutor and the judge that he had no criminal history and that he had never violated the ordinance before, neither seemed to care or take his lack of history into account.
Kevin, who didn’t have an experienced criminal attorney with him for good advice, grudgingly accepted the punishment, and agreed to serve 30 days in jail. 30. Days.
Fortunately, someone in the courtroom suggested that McGill do weekends in jail so that he could continue working and collecting the suburb’s trash. The court, in its only reasonable act that day, agreed. Kevin began serving his 15 weekend sentence.
An experienced criminal attorney would never have agreed to a sentence that was so clearly disproportionate to the alleged conduct. Kevin has since hired an attorney, who recently filed a motion to withdraw his client’s guilty plea.
After news of McGill’s punishment spread, it was suddenly announced that prosecutors would amend his sentence, saying in a statement, “The actions of the court with regards to Mr. McGill’s sentence for violating the city’s noise laws was disproportionate to a first-time offense.” “As such, the court has amended its sentence to time served and further probation (is) suspended,” the statement said.
The judge who initially imposed the 30 day jail sentence admitted “There are times when taking a step back provides the opportunity for better perspective…“In retrospect, the actions of the court with regards to Mr. McGill’s sentence for violating the city’s noise laws, was disproportionate to a first-time offense.”
While the judge and prosecutor’s office ultimately acknowledged what every criminal defense attorney already knew, Mr. McGill had already served two weekends before prosecutors and the court admitted their absolutely crazy mistake. Kevin’s response to all of this was that it’s been hard on his wife who had to take care of their children and pets by herself while he was locked up. The Judge and Prosecutor didn’t care about that either when they sent Kevin to jail with violent criminals and thieves.
The moral of the story is this…don’t ever try and defend yourself in a criminal case. An experienced criminal attorney would have known that there was no automatic jail time for violators of this ordinance. The judge and prosecutor took advantage of the fact that Kevin was unrepresented and just didn’t know any better. Fortunately, there was a wide-spread public outcry, or neither the judge or prosecutor would have done anything differently in Kevin’s case.
While Kevin is fortunate that he will not be spending anymore weekends in jail, many who appear unrepresented and are railroaded by the system are usually not so fortunate. If you’re asking “should I hire an attorney?” The answer is YES! Call Natalie Durflinger with any questions about how her firm can help you, or your family, with any legal questions or issues. We offer free consultations and a military discount.