For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 4 - 19

sentencing mitigation investigation, these facts were
discovered: he had been physically abused by both parents
and bullied at school, as confirmed by his sister. His sister
reported that his parents withheld food as punishment.
His sister was taking medication for ADHD and felt that
the client also suffered from this condition. He began
running away from home at age 13 and developed a
cocaine addiction. The client was evaluated and attended
recommended counseling and treatment, which allowed
him to address unresolved issues that were contributing
to his poor choices.
Another one of my clients was charged in a wire fraud
involving the use of a stolen credit card. She was also in
possession of stolen mail and methamphetamine. She had
12 prior convictions for drug and theft related offenses.
When she was 16, her mother obtained employment
and was not home after school. Her parents revealed
that she began dating a man who was several years
older. She began going to nightclubs and using ecstasy
and soon after methamphetamine. Her parents added
that it was like someone " flipped a switch " and she was
someone else. For the next 19 years, she served multiple
prison sentences and was placed under multiple grants of
supervision. Unfortunately, throughout the 19 years, she
had never been afforded the opportunity to participate
in long-term treatment. Rather than imposing another
lengthy prison sentence, the judge released her to a longterm
treatment program.
Finally, another client had undiagnosed mental health
issues that contributed to her cycle of criminal behavior.
Upon talking to her estranged mother for 10 minutes,
I learned that the client's aunt was recently diagnosed
with Bi-Polar Disorder and abused drugs to selfmedicate.
Once the client's aunt was diagnosed, she was
prescribed medication, which addressed her symptoms.
Through medication and counseling, she was able to
achieve sobriety, maintain employment and improve
her relationships. The client's mother opined that she
recognized the same symptoms in the client and felt an
evaluation might reveal the same diagnosis.
Judges want to know how the client became involved
in the offense, what has he done to fix it, and what he
has done to assure it will not happen again. Even if you
only have 20 minutes, asking these basic questions can
reveal this useful information. I have developed a basic
checklist of questions to ask and records to find, though
each situation is unique:
1. What was it like growing up in your house?
2. What was grade school like for you?
3. Were you the victim any emotional, physical,
or sexual abuse?
4. Have you struggled with alcohol or drug
abuse? Have any family members?
5. Have you suffered from anxiety or depression?
How about any family members?
6. Have you ever attended any type of
counseling?
Many of these questions can be integrated into
your client intake form. A well-trained paralegal or
administrative assistant can also conduct these interviews
and obtain relevant school, medical, mental health, or
substance abuse treatment records.
Find out: " Who is your client? " The client is more than a
car thief, methamphetamine addict, and physical abuser.
He is a father, a son, and a brother. He is a hard worker
who helps the neighbors or is the sole caretaker for his
mother. He sold his work tools to pay for food for his kids.
He sold his car to pay for his grandmother's funeral. He
is overwhelmed by being the problem solver and go-to
person in his family. He is doing his best under the most
challenging circumstances. He needs help, but what kind?
Learn what the client has done in his life until now.
Perhaps he has helped others in a meaningful way. For
example, even though he has struggled with addiction,
he made sure his little brother made it to school every day
or checked on an elderly neighbor. Ask the client if he has
helped others and find out whether a teacher, parent,
or friend can verify the information. It is important to
provide positive examples of the client's character that can
convince the judge that the client has shown a propensity
to help others, has maintained a job, and can be successful
and productive. Has he demonstrated potential in the
past? Perhaps the client has had difficulty maintaining
stable employment; however, his previous employers note
a strong work ethic and positive performance during
periods of sobriety. It is important to note whether he
has been provided with the opportunity to participate
in treatment in the past or if those efforts through prior
probation grants were unsuccessful. Often, probationers
are directed to AA meetings or a " one size fits all "
treatment program. The client fails to appear and stops
reporting to probation. Locate records in previous cases to
find out why they were unsuccessful and explain why this
time could be different.
Arrange a psychological evaluation: it is an effective
explanation tool. Once you have a good sense of the client's
background, if time and money permit, a psychological
evaluation may be beneficial and should be arranged
right away. It is not necessary to use a psychiatrist or a
psychologist. A certified therapist with a master's in social
work will be sufficient. There is a tendency to believe
that the goal of the evaluation is to diagnose the client
with a particular mental illness. Many clients do not have
a diagnosable mental illness; rather, the evaluation is an
effective explanation tool by a doctor or mental health
professional that reveals how various issues may have led
Vol. 6, Issue 4 l For The Defense 19

For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 4

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 4

Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 4 - 1
For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 4 - 2
For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 4 - Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 4 - 4
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