You do not need to be an attorney to know that one of the rules of negotiation is to not jump at the first offer that is made. That is often the case in criminal law, but it also important for a criminal defense lawyer to understand his case, how strong the Commonwealth’s evidence is and what his or her client is facing. A criminal attorney must take into consideration the severity of the charges, the client’s prior record score and the sentencing guidelines for any violation.
Recently, our criminal defense team had the opportunity to represent a Chester County War Veteran with documented mental health issues who was facing serious charges and facing a serious five year state jail sentence. We were not his first lawyer, but our team felt that the fight was not over and we were determined to reach better outcome. Our firm feels it is attuned to all the needs of our clients, but especially those who have served our country and as a result have special needs or mental illness.
Originally, the client was assigned an attorney by the court, a “conflict counsel.” The case was initially scheduled for a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Gwenn S. Knapp, at her courtroom on 21 West Market Street, Suite 100, West Chester, PA 19382. At that time, the conflict counsel instructed the client to waive the hearing, instead of challenging the Commonwealth to meet its burden of proof. After the matter was transferred to the Chester County Justice Center and scheduled for trial, the attorney assigned to the case by the Chester County District Attorney’s office advised counsel that their offer was a five year period of incarceration in a state correction facility.
The client came to us seeking a second opinion regarding his 5-year sentence. We discussed with him his options and a strategy to get him a better sentence without making promises. He liked our enthusiasm, effort and focus and ultimately hired us.
Our client in this case was facing several serious felonies initially, including 2 counts of Possession with Intent to Deliver, 2 counts of Criminal use of Communication facility, and 1 count falsifying a gun permit application, all felonies, and 3 other misdemeanor charges in Chester County.
Possession with Intent to Deliver is proved by showing a party has (1) possession, (2) with intent to manufacture or deliver, and (3) the product is a controlled substance. Criminal use of a Communication Facility is proven by showing a party (1) uses a communication facility (2) to commit, any crime under the drug act. Violation of this statute results in a charge of a third degree felony.
He was facing up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000. He also had the disadvantage of being psychologically scarred from his time in the service.
Typically war veterans are eligible for Veterans Court, in Chester County, which takes into account all the mental and physical ailments a veteran of a foreign war could face upon his return from combat and gives appropriate treatment to our former soldiers in need.
Our firm zealously represented the client while working within the constraints of his mental illness. We informed the Judge and District Attorney of his mental illness and explained that treatment instead of prison was a more appropriate sentence. Based on our team’s persistence and negotiation, we were able to greatly reduce the charges that our client was facing and was able to negotiation a disposition that focused both on a degree of punishment but also rehabilitation and avoided a lengthy sentence or time in a state penitentiary so that our client could both accept responsibility and also get the help he needed.
Our firm strives to gain the best outcomes for our clients when they are facing prosecution by the government. We look forward to helping out clients and their families during troubled times and help them get the justice they deserve.