Friday, January 27, 2006

Criminal Defense and good prosecutors

I'm often critical of prosecutors, so I feel a special duty to comment when I see one who understands.

I just had a young client with a minor drug misdemeanor. The typical reduction would be to a lesser drug charge - a violation. But with a young client, you need to be concerned about the prospect for financial aid in the future.

Federal law makes anyone with any drug conviction ineligible for financial aid. Period. Forever. Rapist? Still eligible. Marijuana violation? Sorry, you're out. The law is not always rational.

I explained this to the young ADA, someone who has been pleasant and thoughtful in the past as well. Initially she felt that my client would be okay with youthful offender (YO) status on the misdemeanor, but it's not clear (not to me at least) that YO protects you when it comes to the feds.

After some discussion and thought, she agreed to take it out of drugs -- we reduced it to a DisCon -- disorderly conduct violation. Client had a drug evaluation and will do treatment according to the recommendation.

I should also give the judge credit -- we have butted heads on one or two occasions. He's very tough, and has a stern demeanor in the courtroom. But he's also very smart, both in general and when it comes to understanding criminal law. On the latter he's way ahead of me (and maybe on the former), but he's been doing this a lot longer. In this case he understood the financial aid concern right away, and approved the deal.

Maybe I'll get in trouble with the other criminal defense lawyers for saying nice things about a prosecutor??

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