When you meet with Alperstein and Diener lawyers for a criminal or drunk driving matter, don’t be surprised if we recommend getting an evaluation and treatment. We recommend this course of action because we understand how cases are perceived by the judges, prosecutors and court personnel.
In drug cases, because of the addictive nature of most street drugs, there is a presumption that the criminal act which is charged is just a small part of an overall pattern of behavior. It is rare to convince the system that the one time you got caught with drugs is also the only time you ever did them. Additionally, drunk driving cases are routinely reviewed by representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and are an area which receives a lot of focus from judges and prosecutors because it is such a pervasive and dangerous act.
Why do we recommend doing treatment BEFORE trial? Take, for example, a drunk driving case. Whether it is the first or the fifth, whether there was an accident or not, and whether or not we think you will be convicted, we are going to urge you to get an evaluation and follow the treatment provider’s recommendations. No matter how weak the State’s case, and how strong the defense, no lawyer can guarantee a particular outcome. If we do end up getting the case dismissed or prevail at trial, no one needs to know you got treatment, but if you are convicted we want to be able to argue effectively for the best possible sentence.
The reason that treatment favorably affects the sentence is easy to understand. Implicit in the decision to seek an evaluation is an acceptance of the fact that you could have made better choices (remember that this is not presented to anyone unless you are found guilty). Further, the evaluation is done by a professional in the field. It is all well and good for you to say to a judge that your drinking is under control, and for your lawyer to say the same, but for a professional evaluator to assess you and make a recommendation which you then follow, gives more impartial information for the judge to use in assessing what sentence to hand down. By submitting to an evaluation and treatment you are showing remorse for poor decision–making, and amenability to treatment. Sentencing of people who show a willingness to grow and learn can often time go better than for the person who denies any responsibility for their actions.
In the case of drunk driving and drug convictions, there is an additional incentive to get evaluated and treated: Criminal Procedure Article §6-220 requires the judge to review an evaluation of a mental health professional prior to granting the benefit of a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ), or to order the defendant to participate in a treatment or education program. If you have already followed the recommendations of your lawyer at a treatment agency of YOUR choosing, you will already have the information the judge needs to grant you a PBJ. If you haven’t, the judge may order you to participate in a program chosen by your probation agent in order to receive the benefit of a PBJ.
Whether or not you choose to follow the recommendation of treatment is up to you, but be prepared to talk about it with your lawyer. Contact Arthur S. Alperstein, Christopher P. Wheatcroft, Robert H. Wolf, Warren S. Alperstein, Alexander C. Steeves or Andrew I. Alperstein.