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B. PREPARING FOR TRIAL
I've been trying to be overly simplistic with my explanation.
The United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.), are in fact
quite complex. So much so that special law firms are forming that
deal only with sentencing. If you get busted, I would highly recommend
hiring one. In some cases it might be wise to avoid hiring a trial
attorney and go straight to one of these "Post Conviction
Specialists." Save your money, plead out, do your time. This
may sound a little harsh, but considering the fact that the U.S.
Attorney's Office has a 95% conviction rate, it may be sage advice.
However, I don't want to gloss over the importance of a ready
for trial posturing. If you have a strong trial attorney, and
have a strong case, it will go a long way towards good plea bargain
C. PLEA AGREEMENTS AND ATTORNEYS
Your attorney can be your worst foe or your finest advocate.
Finding the proper one can be a difficult task. Costs will vary
and typically the attorney asks you how much cash you can raise
and then says, "that amount will be fine". In actuality
a simple plea and sentencing should run you around $15,000. Trial
fees can easily soar into the 6 figure category. And finally,
a post conviction specialist will charge $5000 to $15,000 to handle
your sentencing presentation with final arguments.
You may however, find yourself at the mercy of The Public
Defenders Office. Usually they are worthless, occasionally you'll
find one that will fight for you. Essentially it's a crap shoot.
All I can say is if you don't like the one you have, fire them
and hope you get appointed a better one. If you can scrape together
$5000 for a sentencing (post conviction) specialist to work with
your public defender I would highly recommend it. This specialist
will make certain the judge sees the whole picture and will argue
in the most effective manner for a light or reasonable sentence.
Do not rely on your public defender to thoroughly present your
case. Your sentencing hearing is going to flash by so fast you'll
walk out of the court room dizzy. You and your defense team need
to go into that hearing fully prepared, having already filed a
The plea agreement you sign is going to affect you and your
case well after you are sentenced. Plea agreements can be tricky
business and if you are not careful or are in a bad defense position
(the case against you is strong), your agreement may get the best
of you. There are many issues in a plea to negotiate over. But
essentially my advice would be to avoid signing away your right
to appeal. Once you get to a real prison with real jailhouse lawyers
you will find out how bad you got screwed. That issue notwithstanding,
you are most likely going to want to appeal. This being the case
you need to remember two things: bring all your appealable issues
up at sentencing and file a notice of appeal within 10 days of
your sentencing. Snooze and loose.
I should however, mention that you can appeal some issues
even though you signed away your rights to appeal. For example,
you can not sign away your right to appeal an illegal sentence.
If the judge orders something that is not permissible by statute,
you then have a constitutional right to appeal your sentence.
I will close this subpart with a prison joke. Q: How can you
tell when your attorney is lying? A: You can see his lips moving.
Whatever happened to getting off on a technicality? I'm sorry
to say those days are gone, left only to the movies. The courts
generally dismiss many arguments as "harmless error"
or "the government acted in good faith". The most alarming
trend, and surely the root of the prosecutions success, are the
liberally worded conspiracy laws. Quite simply, if two or more
people plan to do something illegal, then one of them does something
in furtherance of the objective (even something legal), then it's
a crime. Yes, it's true. In America it's illegal to simply talk
about committing a crime. Paging Mr. Orwell. Hello?
Here's a hypothetical example to clarify this. Bill G. and
Marc A. are hackers (can you imagine?) Bill and Marc are talking
on the phone and unbeknownst to them the FBI is recording the
call. They talk about hacking into Apple's mainframe and erasing
the prototype of the new Apple Web Browser. Later that day, Marc
does some legitimate research to find out what type of mainframe
and operating system Apple uses. The next morning, the Feds raid
Marc's house and seize everything that has wires. Bill and Marc
go to trial and spend millions to defend themselves. They are
both found guilty of conspiracy to commit unauthorized access
to a computer system.
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