The Sentencing - It all Comes Down to This
In the Drunk Driving section of this site, I explored “The Importance of the Voice of your Lawyer.” While there is no need to repeat what is posted there, that same concept of the lawyer as a persuader of opinion applies every bit as much to criminal cases as it does to DUI cases. After all, DUI cases are just a kind of criminal case, anyway. In any criminal case, success is best measured by what does NOT happen to you.
Throughout my various blog articles, I examine every aspect of criminal cases, from the moment of first police contact, to what happens at the first court date right up through the final outcome. Good or bad, that final outcome of any case, and what matters most, is the result. Thus, if a person goes to court for a suspended license charge and gets locked up for 10 days, then that’s a bad result. On the other hand, if someone goes to court on a possession of marijuana charge, and they whole thing is kept off their record and all they have to do is pay a fine, that’s a good result.
The results in any criminal case aren’t random, nor do they just “appear” out of nowhere, or without reason. Certain strategies must be employed to produce the best results possible. One of the most important is to be thoroughly prepared to do well on the pre-sentence investigation, or PSI. The PSI involves you providing background information about yourself and the offense itself. It often includes completing a written substance abuse evaluation (even in non-alcohol and non-drug related cases), and always concludes with you being interviewed by a probation officer.
The end result of the PSI process is a written sentencing recommendation drafted by the probation officer and provided to the Judge, who must read and consider it in deciding what happens to you. This recommendation is BEYOND important in criminal and DUI cases, and essentially becomes the blueprint for what the Judge will do at your sentencing.
The ONLY thing that stands between you, the Judge, the recommendation in his or her hand is your lawyer. After all the legal wrangling and negotiating, it falls to the skill of the lawyer in addressing and persuading the court. It all comes down to how well (or not) your lawyer can make a speech. In a very real way, it all comes down to this.
If you think about it, this really focuses on the essence of what a lawyer is, or at least is supposed to be. Unfortunately, the traditional image of the lawyer as a charismatic, persuasive and well-spoken changer of opinions has taken a beating over the last few decades, and too many of today’s real-life attorneys do little to change that. Nowadays, lawyers are portrayed in movies and in TV shows as marginally intelligent smart alecks, whose best talent is the well-placed, witty quip. The only thing these characters do is reinforce the idea that lawyers are rather unlikeable. Forget charisma.
Except that, when you’re standing in front of the Judge, that’s EXACTLY the trait you need most. When someone hires a lawyer for a criminal or DUI case, they should hire someone who could talk the spots off of a leopard. If not, then they hired the wrong lawyer.
At the sentencing, your lawyer has a very brief window to get the Judge’s attention. Within moments, your Judge’s attention will either have been grabbed, or lost. And that’s the point of this section, and the real “point” in a criminal case; it all comes down to this. When your lawyer stands at the podium at sentencing, it’s time to make that Judge look up and captivate him or her. In the world of persuasive speaking, you must first capture the listener’s attention. Then, you must begin persuading the listener to see things your way. A persuasive speaker will captivate the listener, and will influence his or her opinion. In a criminal or DUI case, that means your lawyer needs to make things better for you.
This is my playground. This kind of persuasive speaking defines me, both a person and as a lawyer. To me, having these skills in top form is required if you’re going to take people’s money and try and make things better for them in a criminal or DUI case. Beyond just having the right skill set, any professional, in any endeavor, needs to continually practice and refine them, and I do. And if the reader is wondering how I speak, you can get a pretty good idea just by what you’ve been reading.
It is, I admit, a bit unconventional for this kind of information to show up on a lawyer’s website. Yet in the search for a lawyer, things like the lawyer’s voice, and temperament, and how they present information and explain things are precisely those attributes that distinguish one from another. Do you really think that some “special” lawyer is hiding behind a boring website? If you want an idea of how a particular lawyer talks, read what he or she has written. Their “voice” should be every bit as discernible from their writings as it would be if you were sitting across the desk from them. I know mine is.
In the final analysis, you either hire a lawyer who is charismatic, effervescent, memorable and persuasive, or not.
And who wants to walk into court and be represented by “or not”?