Why hire an attorney for a federal sentencing?

Years ago, I had a client place me on retainer (as he knew he was being investigated and wanted to have me lined up in case he was arrested).  He thought the case would be a state case, but it turns out federal law enforcement had been following him for a while and the case went to federal court.

A couple of days after his arrest, he stated he wanted to go with a court appointed attorney because he was “just going to plea guilty anyway” wanted to save his money for his young daughter, and her mother.  I understood but warned him that if the attorney did not have the experience necessary for sentencing it could cost him in terms of the sentence.  A cynic would say, of course that is the argument because that is how you make a living.  There is plenty of alleged crime and arrests that I will never be short of clients. My client went on to get an unduly lengthy sentence because the attorney (who had promised him he was “excellent”) had not objected to the unfair enhancements the client received and did not present complete and full mitigation that cost him years. Even if you, or your loved one, pled guilty there is much that can be done to shave off time at sentencing in most cases.  Many clients come to me because they know I do not believe in lying to clients because, there is simply no need to.  The federal criminal defense system can get complicated, but it can be explained in a straightforward fashion giving clients options as to the best pursuit of their case.  An attorney who understands the system can properly explain it to anyone.  Many clients have come to me when they lost trust in their attorneys, so lying truly never benefits anyone.

Simply because an attorney practices in federal court does not mean that they are familiar with the Sentencing Manual, issued and revised, by the United States Sentencing Commission.  I have read the entire manual (all 618 pages of the current edition) and keep up to date with all of the revisions made.  In 2023, after many years of non-revisions due to the COVID 19 pandemic, there were several amendments that came into effect on November 1st.  Since these amendments were known to the legal community earlier in the year, I had my client reap the benefits of those revisions even if they were sentenced before November 1st.  (May 24th is when the revisions were ratified by Congress thus essentially ensuring they would become law on November 1st.)

A federal sentencing hearing is almost like a “mini trial.”  It requires preparation, witnesses, and evidence.  Many times, I use a mitigation specialist for sentencing.  A mitigation specialist is qualified by training and experience who can uncover evidence that may serve at sentencing to help the Court understand why a client deserves a less harsh sentence.  They typically have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work, psychology, counseling or a related field and can provide expert insight into recognizing a defendant’s possible mental health, developmental disorders, intellectual disability, history of neglect, abuse and addictions.

A mitigation specialist has clinical and information-gathering skills that most lawyers do not have.  They have the ability to recognize mental health conditions that may have affected the defendant.  They can help the defense team to identify the most appropriate experts to examine the defendant.  A mitigation specialist can document the psycho-social history of the client through record collection and review, interviews from important witnesses, and information about the social history of the client’s life.  The mitigation specialist can often perform these tasks more efficiently and effectively than attorneys or other experts on the case, making their assistance cost-effective. The information they uncover can be used to present a cohesive theory of the case and make a compelling argument for a mitigated sentence. Mitigation specialists can often digest records into a chronological timeline or social history, using charts and pictures that can be helpful in succinct presentations to the state for negotiations.  The close rapport that mitigation specialists maintain with clients and client family members can be an important part of successfully negotiating a plea in a case.

Contact Laguzzi Law, P.C. at 215-625=4547 for any questions about your federal sentencing.