Tuesday, July 09, 2013


The goal of Clearwater criminal defense lawyers is to find the best possible outcome for every client charged with misconduct. Sometimes the best outcome will not be obtained by fighting the facts of a case in a jury trial, but by pleading to the charge with the understanding that the sentencing Judge will give a predetermined sentence that represents the best result for a client. 

In this Tampa Bay Florida courtroom judges listen to prosecutors & defense counsel  before sentencing. Yet the paradox of sentencing is that the Judge in many ways is the least informed of any of the key participants. Further, many judges may be influenced to give unfair sentences by outside factors, such as by elections. Still most judges seem to strive toward fairness in sentencing. During a sentencing hearing the Judge may have the most knowledge of the law, but typically, it's also the Judge who will have the least knowledge of the facts and circumstances of that particular case. 

This is true because the defense lawyer and prosecutors have investigated the case as well as engaged in the process of discovery with ready knowledge of police reports, depositions of significant witnesses and a working knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of their cases. The more complex the set of facts the more reliant the Judge will be on the lawyers for the defense and prosecution in determining what he believes to be a fair sentence.

The best defense lawyers will leverage statements from prosecutors and law enforcement that may become useful in persuading the sentencing Judge to give a reasonable sentence. A number of years ago as a prosecutor in Tampa Bay, Florida, I found an odd think often happened during sentencing hearings. Counterintuitively, the most effective argument in aggravation would be made by the defense lawyer.  This would occur when the sentencing Judge would box the lawyer into a damning statement about his client.

For example in a drug trafficking case the sentencing hearing could turn on the following:

Defense Lawyer: "My client's drug addiction may be a threat to himself, but I'm certain he can not be viewed as a threat to the community."

Judge: "If he's a threat to himself, he's a threat to anyone who might be called to try to help him, isn't he, including any first responders to a 911 call. Probation will not work here, only jail will protect him from himself and the harm he may do others."

Here the Judge finds the most reliable evidence for what may pass as the truth in facts which are brought to his attention from the defense and appear to be against interest. If the prosecutor states that a Defendant is a threat, that's to be expected as obvious, but if the defense lawyer brings it up, well then it must not only be certain but should be acted upon. 

Defense counsel from the very first day on the case must be pushing the prosecutor toward the belief of the most significant key facts that will help the defense in sentencing even if there is abundant evidence of the Defendant's guilt. 

These narrowing facts that support mitigation at sentencing should be brought into every conversation with the prosecutor and law enforcement during the course of depositions and discovery. With effective planning, skill and strategy the most effective argument a Clearwater criminal attorney will make at sentencing often comes from the prosecutor. 

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