Interviewer: What do you do with clients that say, “I did it; I’m guilty. I just want to give up and throw myself at the mercy of the court”? Is there a mercy at the court or is that a bad idea just to give up like that?
Stuart Austin: Even though you may be guilty of something, first of all, the prosecution has to prove that you’re guilty and they have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. As we discussed earlier, the drug treatment court is really a viable option for many people.
That person may very well be guilty of possessing drugs, but it was an addiction that caused that, and if we can cure him of that addiction so that he goes out and becomes a member of society, and the courts agree, that there shouldn’t be any stigma associated with that.
That is an example of a case where the person is guilty but the court takes the view of that this person can be rehabilitated.
Throwing yourself on the mercy of the court may not always be in your best interest. You still need the benefit of an attorney because if you don’t go into the drug treatment court, the mercy of the court could translate into a year in jail and no concrete assistance for you since you are not getting help with your addiction.
How Likely Is it That a Qualified Attorney Can Have a Positive Impact on Your Drug-Related Case?
Interviewer: How likely is it on a case that you’re able to affect it substantially and get someone’s charges dropped, dismissed, or reduced? I know you can’t give specifics, but just provide generalities.
Stuart Austin: I would say that probably in close to 90% of our cases, we are really doing something substantial for the person. Whether it’s a person who has a marijuana conviction or a minor marijuana charge, which is a pretty minor charge as we talked about earlier, but they end up with no criminal charge and a sealed record.
Even though it’s a minor charge to start with, the benefit they receive is really very valuable. It could be our client is charged with a murder, but we can show that the fact or the circumstances as portrayed perhaps by the police were not correct and it wasn’t a murder, but what we call manslaughter.
The difference between murder and manslaughter is that manslaughter is more of an accident with no intent to cause murder. Therefore, instead of having life imprisonment, the person goes to jail for just a jail sentence where he can come back out after he serves his time, and again, do something with his life. Yes, I think that in many, many of our cases, that we really do affect the client.