Using a Client’s Psychological Past For a Better Result In His or Her Case Today

Some very tough cases can be “won” even if a client takes a guilty plea if the desired result is achieved: no prison time and, sometimes, even no criminal record.  Some subtle lawyering is needed to achieve such results but we’ve managed to do this regularly.  Many experienced New York criminal attorneys will spend the time required to learn enough about their clients’ personal history, plumbing it for potential opportunities to convince a prosecutor or a judge that a criminal conviction or incarceration is not necessary.

Psychology Often Plays A Role In Criminal Behavior

People are arrested for all sorts of reasons; sometimes due to psychological forces beyond their control, sometimes due to psychological forces that can be fixed – which then ensures that the otherwise law abiding, productive citizen will never again be a threat to commit another crime.  Judges and prosecutors are not unreasonable people.  If the defense lawyer can convince them that the psychological trigger was either beyond the client’s control or contributed to the crime, fairness dictates that a much less onerous result can be achieved.

Some examples: in 2015, a client of ours, a recent college graduate with a clean record including service to those less fortunate than her, happened to have had one bad, drunken night ending in her arrest for Assault in the Second Degree (NYPL § 120.05 (2)) after she was caught on a security camera fighting with a bartender, spitting at the bartender and then throwing a heavy glass into the bartender’s face causing significant injuries.  The charge – which could not be disputed – carried with it a minimum sentence of two to seven years in prison.  This was obviously not an acceptable result.  Immediately we had the client sent for therapy and possible treatment for an alcohol issue – before our first court appearance following her release on bail.  We then gathered dozens of letters attesting to the client’s life filled with good deeds and good behavior.  All of this was presented to the prosecutor who, though initially skeptical of the client’s motives, acknowledged that her immediately beginning psychological treatment to address her issues before being required to, was a good harbinger of her future behavior.  End result: a plea to a lesser charge of Assault in the Third Degree – a misdemeanor – with the agreement that if she was not arrested in the following 18 months she would be permitted to withdraw her guilty plea and enter a plea to a charge of Harassment, a non-criminal violation.  To jump from a felony with a mandatory minimum of two years in prison to a simple violation, despite clear evidence of guilt, is an extraordinary and rare result.

In another case of ours, a client convicted in federal court in Manhattan of laundering $2.5 million of proceeds of an illegal gambling operation received a sentence of five years probation despite sentencing guidelines calling for significant prison time.  After a significant review of the client’s history, we found that he had been gambling since childhood and that it had negatively impacted every aspect of his life.  In preparation for sentencing we had the client seen and tested by two psychologists who specialized in treating gambling disorders. Both experts reported that our client suffered significantly reduced mental capacity during the commission of his crime due to a pathological gambling disorder.  Despite the fact that Congress had recently outlawed downward departures based on gambling disorders, the Court nevertheless departed to a probationary sentence – as the new law was not scheduled to go into effect until the very next day.

Every Case Contains Potential For a Great Result

We have accomplished this type of result in numerous serious cases, permitting clients to avoid prison or even a criminal record; however, it requires digging deeply into a client’s background, personal history and psychological issues and presenting these findings in a persuasive manner, convincing prosecutors/judges that the client deserves mercy.  However, there’s a reason clients hire an experienced attorney and don’t represent themselves: because anyone can simply plead to the charge in a case; hiring a top lawyer with a track record of success can oftentimes achieve a much better result than ever imagined.  Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman at (212) 581-1001 to discuss your case today.