We recently won a victory for our client by reducing felony drug charges to two misdemeanors with no jail time. Our client was the victim of a robbery and breaking and entering. Upon calling the police, our client was questioned about his own possible possession of drugs. Police suspected that the robbery was drug-related.
Our client did all the right things; refused to consent to the search, was polite with the police officers. But ultimately he was charged with a felony drug offense. Fortunately for him, we were able to prevail upon the prosecutor to reduce the offense to misdemeanors that will enable our client to still be fully employed and, after the end of probation, return to his normal life.
Client was passed out in the middle of a road in Cary with a firearm on the passenger seat. He had consumed a large amount of alcohol. Later tests would indicate the client had twice the legal limit of alcohol.
During a 2 hour trial, the prosecution was unable to admit the number registered on the Intox EC/IR II machine, rendering that information irrelevant to the judge hearing the case. The client was ultimately found not guilty, salvaging his otherwise outstanding military career. Another victory!
Client retained our firm after a tracking device was discovered on his car when he took the car in for a regular check-up at Jiffy Lube. Once the tracking device was removed, police – seeing that the tracking device was no longer functional – visited the client one day before work, interrogating him and his wife about his conduct. Client gave a partial statement and then, wisely, requested a lawyer.
Shaken, he came into our offices. Police suspected that the client had planned a rendezvous with a minor in another state to pursue sexual activity and were monitoring his car to see if he left North Carolina. We addressed his many concerns, and then started him on a rigorous program of mental health treatment and monitoring.
We followed-up repeatedly with the federal agent, prepared evaluation reports for his review, prepared an “innocence package,” and prevented our client from giving additional incriminating statements. In the end, police declined to press federal charges against our client.
A client, referred to us, entered a home in Wake County in late 2016 after being distraught following the break-up with his girlfriend. He brought a shotgun. It was obviously an unconscionable act, involving violence and anger, and invoking fear and terror in his victims. Five were held hostage mid-day as the client demanded from the girlfriend why she had broke up with him. The client fired off two shots, one through a window of the home, and one into the air after the police had arrived to keep the police at bay.
There was no real criminal defense. The client had committed a felony breaking and interesting with intent to terrorize, he had kidnapped five individuals in the home by holding them briefly, and he had discharged a firearm twice into an occupied dwelling.
The district attorney requested a four year sentence, a sentence that would’ve neared what one would have gotten after a manslaughter conviction.
Following a three hour sentencing hearing, and which four defense witnesses testified, reports from a forensic psychologist was presented, and a report from a sentencing mitigating specialist was presented, the judge entered an entirely fair judgment including 24 months of incarceration, half of what the government had originally offered.
An 18 month sentence may not seem like a great outcome, but when your client is caught selling multiple fire arms and marijuana to an undercover officer, a year and a half in jail is a truly remarkable outcome. Our client was arrested years ago after police were following up on a string of home invasions and burglaries in the eastern part of the state.
At the same time, our client, who had nothing to do with the burglaries, but was selling stolen firearms that apparently had come from the home, was under investigation for marijuana sales. He was brought in for questioning and, without the advice of a lawyer, he fully confessed to his activity, gave the names of the people who had broken into the homes, and admitted to selling marijuana and selling drugs.
Fast forward 3 years. The federal government, having done nothing with this case, arrest our client earlier this year. But he has nothing to add. The other culprits have either fled, or have already been prosecuted. In the federal system, a sentencing recommendation is prepared for the judge which would’ve had our client serve a minimum of 61 months.
After a sentencing hearing, the judge was persuaded for various reasons that that sentence was far too harsh. He was sentenced to roughly 18 months, and will be out of custody in 2019. A remarkable outcome for man who has turned his life around.
A lot of people think that a lawyer should talk and talk in a trial. But what if you the officer testifying in your client’s DWI trial fails to actually say anything particularly damaging? The state rests. Now it’s time for the defense attorney to decide what to do.
He’s got his client sitting next to him. The client probably thinks his attorney should stand up and grill the officer. After all, hasn’t the client paid a lot of money to have his lawyer talk a lot?
More cases have been lost by a lawyer who talks too long, asks one too many questions, or badgers the witness until the judge or jury starts to dislike the lawyer. The best advocacy is professional, clean, and to the point. The best advocacy distills the issues down to the fundamental points.
Defense work sometimes does call for obfuscation and filibustering. But more often than not a good, clean cross examination that is polite, straightforward, calls for “yes or no” responses, and is short can win the day.
That’s just what I did two weeks ago in two different trials involving clients who blew well above the legal limit. In both cases, the prosecutor failed to elicit testimony sufficient to show the officer had probable cause to arrest my client. In both cases, the officers were not clear and specific in explaining why they thought my client was driving while impaired.
And in both cases, I didn’t ask any questions at all.
Cases closed, cases won.
For the past four years, Damon Chetson has been named a Super Lawyer: Rising Star. The recognition is given to fewer than 3 lawyers out of 100. In addition, Damon was named a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law in 2016 as a result of his experience and reputation. Fewer than 100 lawyers statewide are Board Certified in Criminal Law.