23-year-old Mark came to me like many young criminal defense clients – scared to death, with his frustrated and equally frightened parents in tow. He’d gotten caught up in a crime spree of car break-ins that eventually got him charged with 19 felonies. That included burglary 1st degree, which carries a minimum 15 years in prison– up to life.
What I did to help. Upon reviewing the extensive evidence I compelled the State to give us, we realized the State’s case was basically airtight. What do you do with a 23-year-old charged with multiple felonies where the State’s case is airtight?
You fight to preserve his freedom and future reputation.
Over months of negotiation with the solicitor, I did just that by:
- Bursting the bubble on burglary 1st degree. I convinced the State to reduce this charge two levels to first offense burglary 3rd, carrying a maximum of 5 years. Mainly, I pointed out Mark had been “overcharged”- the facts didn’t really support a burglary 1st charge. Burglary 3rd degree was more proper.
- I got the State to allow Mark to plead guilty under the Youthful Offender Act. Getting the State to agree to this was key to Mark’s ultimate goal to get his record clear. The YOA gives certain non-violent offenders the right to have their convictions removed from the public record, called expungement.
- Ironing out YOA wrinkles. When reputations are at stake, details matter. I discovered a technicality could cost Mark the right to expungement. Since the State Law Enforcement Division in Columbia is the ultimate authority deciding if a YOA qualifies for expungement, I worked with their general counsel to create a court order saving Mark’s eligibility.
The solicitor kindly agreed to it and the judge signed it at the guilty plea.
- I got the State to agree to no prison time. It was a bit of a tough sell, but my efforts paid off. Among other things, I pointed out Mark’s diminished role in the crime spree- he served as the lookout. It wasn’t a defense, but I argued his diminished role justified diminished punishment.
- Highly successful plan B. We call pleading guilty “Plan B” because Plan A is win. At the hearing, the judge dressed Mark down, laying into him he faced 80 years for the crimes he pled to.
I made a strong case for probation, and Mark did the most important thing a client can at guilty plea – he freely and sincerely admitted wrongdoing and deeply apologized to the victims.
In the end, the judge gave Mark the sentence I requested at the hearing – 3 years’ probation under the YOA.
We’re confident Mark will put this behind him. In 8 years – 5 years after he finishes probation – he can be eligible to get these charges wiped off his record.
I’m mighty thankful I had the chance to usher this family through a dark time and give a young client the chance at a bright future.