If you have received a visit at home or work from an inquisitive FBI agent then you may have just found yourself ensnared in a federal criminal investigation. While the investigation may not lead to your indictment, it certainly could. And how you and your attorney handle this investigation phase will go a long way in determining the rest of your life and the future of your family: whether you will be forced to fight federal criminal charges over the coming years or if you will be able to avoid this life-altering event and remain on the periphery of this investigation. Your choice of lawyer in this scenario is, therefore, of crucial importance: because any misstep could be fatal – and even the best federal criminal attorneys in New York could have different advice on how to handle the investigation. Continue reading
As shown in the media, more and more men and women are complaining about being sexually harassed in the workplace by their employers – including even being sexually assaulted. If you are the victim of such offensive behavior, you are not without options: some of the best New York sexual harassment attorneys can assist you in not only stopping the offensive behavior but also in getting you compensation for your damages and possibly other related damages for pain and suffering or emotional distress. This behavior is offensive and troubling; you should fight back with a lawyer who will not back down. Continue reading
One of the oldest tricks in a prosecutor’s book is the overcharging of defendants in order to ensure the best possible outcome for the state, i.e. a conviction and jail sentence. The result is that defendants arrested for minor crimes end up with additional charges, ranging from non-criminal violations to misdemeanors to felonies – many of these charges with no real chance of sticking in the end. By charging as many crimes as possible for a single incident, a prosecutor is exposing the defendant to significantly more jail time, giving the prosecutor more leverage to force defendants to plead guilty to something, ensuring a “win” for the State. Any of the best criminal defense attorneys in New York know through years of experience not to panic – but instead to stay the course and force the prosecutor to come down to an appropriate deal. Continue reading
The art of cross-examination has become somewhat of a lost art today, with a record number of cases pleading out before trial and with scores of young, former state prosecutors becoming defense lawyers, having never had the chance to develop complex cross-examination skills before setting out to defend people charged with crimes. But make no mistake: if your lawyer cannot cross examine effectively, whether it be at a pretrial or post-trial hearing or during a trial, you are basically hiring a glorified clerk to defend you in one of the biggest moments of your life which will affect your career, your future and the future of your family. Because a lawyer who cannot cross-examine will either lose your case or push you into a plea deal you may not want. A lawyer who can, on the other hand, destroy a witness’s credibility on the stand, destroys the government’s credibility, its evidence and the chances of you being convicted of a crime.
Top New York criminal defense attorneys and federal criminal lawyers know that developing a killer cross-examination requires much more than simply challenging the witness’s prior statements supplied by the prosecutor; instead, the best defense lawyers get creative, find materials that the government could not possibly have known about – or prepare their witnesses for. Because in order to even have the opportunity to truly neutralize a prosecution witness a top defense lawyer must put him in a situation in which he has to actually think on his feet. Once taken out of his comfort zone, once the government playbook is taken away from the witness – all hell can break loose. As I have said in my opening statements during trials about cross-examinations of government witnesses, “The evidence is not just what comes out on direct examination by the government; the cross examinations count too – and unlike the direct examinations, as you’ll learn during this case, the cross examinations are not carefully scripted endeavors that come from prepared outlines. They are spontaneous. They test the witnesses by making them think on their feet. They are the crucible of truth.” Continue reading
In a decision which will impact criminal defendants and their ability to fight their cases with counsel of their own choosing, the Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the government may not freeze assets needed to pay criminal defense lawyers if the assets are not proceeds of the alleged criminal activity. The 5-3 decision, which mixed up the usual conservative and liberal alliances, found that the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was superior to the government’s interest in freezing and preserving untainted funds for restitution and penalties should prosecutors later obtain a conviction in cases involving bank fraud and health care offenses. Continue reading
You just got into a loud, ugly screaming match with a neighbor. Incredibly, a few minutes later the police show up at your house to arrest you for Menacing. Although the crime of Menacing may sound ominous, the New York Penal Law defines it as “intentionally plac[ing] another person in “reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death.” Essentially, what this amounts to is the threatening of another individual by words and/or actions. The main difference between Menacing in the Second Degree (PL § 120.14) and Third Degree (PL § 120.15) is that Second Degree Menacing includes the display of a deadly weapon or other dangerous instrument and in the third degree it does not. A deadly weapon generally refers to a gun or a knife, whereas a dangerous instrument refers to any other object that can be used to cause harm to an individual. In addition, Menacing in the Second Degree is an A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison; in the Third Degree it is a B misdemeanor, with up to six months in jail as the maximum exposure. Continue reading
All too often I receive a call from someone who has been contacted by a detective about an accusation of sexual assault or rape. The detective claims he is just doing his job, that he just wants to speak to the client about these accusations made by (friend, colleague, student) and that perhaps he can clear this whole thing up in an interview. If the client resisted this attempt over the phone, a follow up visit usually occurs. It is human nature when confronted with such an accusation to try to talk one’s way out of the mess; unfortunately, giving in to these entreaties can result in unmitigated disaster. Any of the top criminal defense attorneys in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or anywhere in the country will agree that these contacts by law enforcement are simply an effort to take what is a very difficult case for the prosecutor to prove – a “he said/she said” scenario with no corroborating witnesses or physical evidence – and turn it into a layup conviction by getting the suspect to confess or make a statement which badly damages any chance for an acquittal down the road. Therefore, if you receive a call or visit by law enforcement about an accusation of sexual assault or rape, do one thing and one thing only: contact the best New York sex offense attorney you can find – and take his advice.
The vast majority of prosecutions, both state and federal, end in negotiated guilty pleas. In the federal system, for example, only 3% of all criminal cases result in a jury trial – the other 97% are resolved through plea bargaining. Despite the great likelihood of a guilty plea in every prosecution, some cases cannot end in a plea as the prosecutor’s offer is simply too high: a conviction after trial may result in a sentence not far off from the plea offer. And in other cases, the offers are higher than the client and his lawyer believe is appropriate considering the evidence, thus requiring trial preparation. But if you hire a top criminal defense attorney to represent you, his trial preparation will be so extensive that a byproduct of the hard work very well may be the lowering of the prosecutor’s plea offers, from unreasonable to good to great. While the average lawyer figures that the case which starts with a lousy plea offer will still ultimately plead out – and he treats the case that way – some of the best New York criminal lawyers work the case hard enough to ensure that the best possible result occurs: either an acquittal after trial or a very low plea offer.
Jeffrey Lichtman was named by ABC Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams as one one of the 38 best criminal defense lawyers in America in his new LawNewz website. Abrams, who also founded news and opinion blog Mediaite, also named Jeffrey Lichtman as one of the six best criminal defense attorneys in New York.
All too often defendants are led to believe by their criminal defense lawyers that getting an acquittal at trial is the ultimate victory, the best possible result for their case. Any of the best criminal lawyers in New York that I know, however, will agree with me that going to trial should be the last resort because even a trial win can result in horrible damage to the client’s life. It is the defense attorney’s job, therefore, to win the case before it gets to trial, before the damage is done. The competent defense lawyer needs to handle the case as if he’s going to trial, developing evidence which can prove his client’s innocence – or destroy the accuser’s credibility. If your defense attorney has the reputation of being a strong trial attorney who actually wins cases, when the presentation is made to the prosecutor with this developed evidence/impeachment material, the prosecutor often folds, thinking a low plea offer or dismissal is better than a humiliating public acquittal. To illustrate my point I’ll take a look at a painfully horrible trial in the news right now: the rape trial of Dan Nelson, the Manhattan attorney accused of rape who has alternately claimed that a) the accuser was too fat to be raped; and b) his Erectile Dysfunction made it impossible for him to even have sex with the accuser, let alone rape her. Continue reading