Once again, it shows how retaining an experienced, agressive criminal defense attorney pays off for criminal defendants.
Several months ago I was retained by a defendant who had several extremely serious charges in Essex County. My client was charged with First Degree Robbery, Second Degree Aggravated Assault, Third Degree Terroristic Threats, Third Degree Criminal Restraint, Third Degree Burglary, Third Degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose and Fourth Degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon.
Obviously, this case was VERY serious. My client was accusesd of accosting his girlfriend in the basement of their house, pressing a knife to her throat while threatening to kill her, then forcing her to buy him an airline ticket back to their home state of Michigan. Any physical assault, much less one arising from a domestic situation is taken VERY seriously in New Jersey.
The State's original plea offer was a "7 NERA" sentence. This means that my client would be sentenced to 7 years in New Jersey State Prison subject to the "No Early Release Act (NERA)". NERA imposes mandatory minimum prison sentences on defendants pleading guilty to crimes committed while using a weapon. A NERA plea means that a defendant MUST do 85% of the sentence before they even become ELIGIBLE for parole!! This is deadly serious stuff we are talking about.
So my client who had no prior criminal history was going to be close to six years in prison. Not good.
Bearing in mind that there were no eyewitnesses to this incident except for the parties, my initial strategy was to find ways to attack the credibility of the alleged victim. I was going to retain a private investigator to hopefully find some dirt. Maybe a prior criminal conviction, perhaps a substance abuse problem. It sounds dirty, but what if it was you or your child that was facing state prison?
As the case developed, it became obvious that my client had a serious alcohol problem and the victim likewise conveyed that to the State. My client was in and out of treatment twice while the case was moving forward. All proof of his rehab efforts were forwarded to the State. All the while, I was trying to convince the State that treatment was the answer, not a lengthy prison sentence.
After many go-arounds, I was able to secure a straight probationary sentence for this young man, meaning NO incarceration whatsoever!! All he needs to do is follow the mandates of his treatment facility, e.g. if they want him in-patient for six months, he does six months in-patient; if they want daily AA meetings, he does them.
Given the serious nature of the original charges, this deal is an absolute home-run for this young man. He avoids a LONG prison sentence and is essentially forced to get the substance abuse treatment he needs to get his life on track.