The law is the law. The facts are the facts. Based on these couple of truisms, you may think that there is no point in fighting your Palm Beach County criminal case or hiring an attorney to fight for you. You may have been charged with Retail Theft at the Wellington Green Mall, and the surveillance camera zooms in on your face; or, you may be accused of felony drug possession at the beach on Palm Beach Island, and you might have said a little too much to the police. The evidence is against you. You’re toast….What now?
No matter how bad you think your case is, GIVE IT A CHANCE. Aside from the fact that an expert Palm Beach County criminal defense attorney may find technical or procedural errors in the manner the police handled your case (a topic for another blog entry), highlighting your personal circumstances in the right way in Palm Beach County might make the difference between a Nolle Prosequi versus a conviction, no jail versus jail, jail versus prison, or even life versus death.
The presentation of your personal story to the prosecution or the Judge for the benefit of reducing your plea offer is called mitigation, or mitigating circumstances. Some examples of mitigation include an employment letter, good grades in school, the lack of prior record, past military service, community involvement, and treatment for the purposes of rectifying the condition or behavior that brought about the alleged crime in the first place. Mitigation is taken seriously by the prosecutors and judges of the Palm Beach County Courthouse, and can therefore have a significant impact on the outcome of your case.
So now that you have plenty of examples to work with, why do you need a lawyer?
What mitigating documents or information should you present? Although you have seen some examples above, the items you should ultimately present will vary from case to case. For instance, presenting proof of drug treatment in a theft case could cause the government to believe you have additional problems that require a more stringent plea offer. On the other hand, sometimes proof of drug treatment can lower a plea offer because it shows the prosecution the initiative for self-improvement. An experienced Palm Beach County criminal defense lawyer will ask you for items that are likely to benefit your case and advise you to refrain from producing irrelevant or harmful information.
Present mitigation to the prosecutor or judge? Present it on the record or off the record? Present information before or after trial? Present at Gun Club or at the downtown courthouse? You may have a stellar background, but presenting mitigating information to the court at the wrong time, in the wrong place or to the wrong person can actually have the opposite effect of what you intended. For example, discussing your steady job and good grades at arraignment in a courtroom filled with 200 people may annoy the judge and prosecution rather than impress them. Similarly, presenting information on the record rather than off the record may lock you in to a certain set of facts that could hurt you later. An experienced Palm Beach County criminal defense attorney is attuned to the local personalities and rules of administration to be able to plan the best time, place and person to present your mitigating circumstances.
Once you and your Palm Beach lawyer have decided on the items to be presented and the manner of presentation, you need that attorney to do the presenting. This is not only because the lawyer is an experienced advocate with training in negotiation and public speaking; rather, more importantly, your lawyer is your voice with immunity against incriminating you! Anything you say can be held against you; anything your lawyer says on your behalf cannot be attributed to you as an admission. You get the benefit of speaking without the risk of self-incrimination.
Being human matters in your criminal case because…well, everyone else is human too. While your mitigating circumstances may not mean that your case disappears altogether, it can reduce sentencing by the judge in a Plea to the Court or trial, or reduce your plea offer by the Assistant State Attorney. Every case is different, and no circumstance is the same. For this reason, you need an experienced, local criminal defense attorney on your team to show the criminal justice system who you really are. Mitigation is an art; let the artist paint the canvas.
Our criminal defense law firm, located in Lake Worth and Wellington, is ready to help share your story with the court. Attorney Lourdes Casanova is a former prosecutor for the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office, a trial lawyer, an English major, and a native of Palm Beach County. With her training in the law, advocacy, public-speaking, writing, expression, and the community, Attorney Casanova is an asset to your case.
Call or e-mail us today to schedule a consultation.