Recently, I represented a doctor charged by the federal government with the crime of overprescribing opiates which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Proceeding to trial was not an alternative. It was in our client’s best interests to enter a plea and appear for a sentencing with the ultimate goal of avoiding prison.
A criminal defense lawyer has two key responsibilities to achieve the best results at sentencing. First is negotiating a Plea Agreement that lowers the client’s sentencing exposure. Second is a presentation to the court which is more than the eloquence of the presentation, but also a substantive presentation of facts to convince the Judge that the lowest possible sentencing range possible under the mandated guidelines is warranted.
With concerted effort my defense team and I were able to do both. I negotiated a Plea Agreement that placed my client’s sentence range very close to the bottom of the guidelines but even at that level under the Plea Agreement my client was facing sentencing of one to two years in federal prison. Fortunately unlike in State Court, federal judges are vested with a power of discretion to go below the mandated sentencing guideline pursuant to the United States Code section 3553(a). With substantial presentence briefings for the Court, Presentencing Investigation Services and the United States Attorney’s Office, and finally, our oral arguments to the federal judge my client was sentenced to serve a period of probation without any house arrest, monitoring or other imposing restrictions.
As a criminal defense lawyer, other than hearing a jury render a verdict of “Not Guilty”, the most satisfying feeling for me is hearing a Judge announce a just and fair sentence as in this case.