The misconceptions are all over the map. It really depends on the temerity of the client. Some clients will come in and say, “Well, it’s just cocaine. I didn’t kill anybody and I didn’t distribute anything and it’s my fourth time, why would anybody send me to jail?” That’s a bad attitude to have and it’s a huge misconception. Cocaine is still probably illegal everywhere in United States and probably will be for a very long time. It’s also seen as a more dangerous drug and certainly heroin is the same way. The judges realize that the actual incarceration is an essential component to creating deterrence in somebody’s fight against addiction. We need to fight that misconception that because marijuana laws are changing all over the United States and judges are treating marijuana differently even when it’s not illegal; it’s treated with the slap on the wrist. It’s not the same thing for the more serious drugs like heroin, cocaine or meth.
We need to make sure that the clients know because most judges presume that if there is a significant amount of cocaine or meth or heroin that there’s probably other criminal behavior that’s attached to it, for instance shoplifting or fraudulent prescriptions or armed robberies in order to feed an addiction. So judges recognize how dangerous the addiction is and it could lead to other crimes and probably is producing other crimes that they haven’t been caught for. We need to explain that to clients that judges take that all into consideration. In a sentence so to sum it all up, one misconception is incarceration for serious drugs is an essential component to fighting addiction, not long incarceration but short incarceration or the threat thereof. Therefore we need to take it seriously and somebody might go to jail for a short amount of time.
Another misconception that people have is the opposite end of the coin, which is, “Oh! My God, its cocaine. I have never been in trouble before and on Christmas Eve, I tried cocaine and I had it on a little dollar bill, wrapped up in my pocket. I’m going to go to jail for a year”. We need to explain to the first time offender who hasn’t been in the court system much that, “No! First time offenders generally do not go to jail and even second time offenders don’t go to jail.” That’s a misconception and that’s really basically talking somebody down from their legs in their own mind of paranoia. That’s where lawyers become counselors and more sort of just like grief counselors. We basically help people bring their paranoia down and sometimes they just need to come in to the office three or four times before their court date to hear, “You’re very unlikely to go to jail” and they need to hear that repeatedly. As long as they are doing a good job and not re-offending, then our prediction is very likely to come true.
What Are Some Mitigating Factors that Would Help Win Someone’s Drug Case?
We do a thorough interview to find out if the police did anything wrong in the slightest. If the police did anything wrong in the slightest, then we at least have an argument with the prosecutor that
- The prosecutor is going to have a lengthy motions hearing of litigation to try to throw out some of the evidence and the prosecutor should give us a much better deal than they normally give us in order to avoid lengthy litigation on a technicality.
- We actually may fight it and go to court and have a motions hearing on this technicality and hopefully we’d be able to convince a judge that there was a fourth amendment violation, an illegal search, an illegal stop, an illegal arrest, an illegal detention and that the law provides for exclusion and inadmissibility of the evidence as a result of that police illegality.
We need to search for those legal technicalities thoroughly in the initial interview in order to either get a better deal or to actually win at trial. Of course it’s a two-track approach. One is the presumption that we’re going to fight and we’re going to win but the other track is just in case we don’t win, we need to be ready at sentencing to put on the best case of the no jail; meaning treatment, reading books, going to NA, being clean, having a sponsor and that sort of thing. We prepare for the best and we also prepare for the worst at the same time.
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