Sometimes the evidence is stacked against you. There’s a clear, well-lit video on which you can be seen and heard stating “As God is my witness, my name is John Q. Public and I am acting of my own free will!” before punching someone in the face, or drinking 10 shots of JÃ¤germeister and driving a stolen car into a swimming pool, or shoving a multi-pack of Frito-Lay products down your pants and running out of a 7-11. Sometimes there’s no witness whose credibility has to be weighed, no mistaken identity, no profiling. Sometimes there’s just no argument to be made you didn’t commit the crime.
It doesn’t happen often. But when it does, the difference between having a lawyer and having a good lawyer is crucial. At this point, guilt or innocence isn’t the question. The question is “What price are you going to have to pay?” Time in jail? Your home? Your job? Your reputation and respect? Your money? All of the above?
When you’re in that vulnerable position in front of the judge, your attorney is there for two reasons: to fully understand what circumstances got you into your predicament, and to tell your story — the important and beneficial parts of your story — to the judge to help sentencing go your way.
Your lawyer needs to take the time to get to know you and how you got into the jam that you’re in. He also needs to know what impact the arrest has had on you, what you’re living for, what changes you’ve made in your life.
One of the most disheartening parts of being in the criminal justice system is that you’re looked at as a criminal instead of as a person — a person with reasons, motivations, pressures, and a limited number of choices. If your lawyer doesn’t take the time to know you, he can’t make a nuanced and knowledgeable argument to the judge at sentencing. Lots of people had hard childhoods; lots of people have substance abuse problems. Getting past the ‘what’ and into the ‘why’ — getting at the core of your life — makes you a real person to the judge, and that can lighten your penalty.
One of my recent clients was charged with a gang-related assault causing great bodily injury. There was solid evidence to prove the crime, which he had committed, and our best witnesses were in jail or in other states. He was ‘guilty’ because we weren’t going to win a trial. The DA offered him a ‘deal‘ of eight years in prison and pointed out that his maximum exposure was more than 15 years. My client served nine months in county jail and went home.
He could be finishing up his first full year in prison, but he’s not. He’s a free man working full time, helping his little brother and sisters with homework, and spending his free time with his sweetheart and her baby girl. How did we do it? We worked our tails off to weaken the prosecution’s case, and we showed the judge that the prosecution witnesses were lousy. I got to know my client well, and I got the judge to see the man my client really is. Once I got the judge to see him as a person, I could convince the judge that he deserved another shot at a regular life.
I’ve been taking the time to get to know my clients and helping them get out of the tough positions they find themselves in for nearly a decade. If you’re behind the eight ball, give me a chance to run the table for you.