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Evaluations in Criminal Cases

Evaluations Can Help Your Case

After years of representing clients charged with crimes, I’ve learned that the right evaluation can make a huge difference in a case.  For example, there have been times when I initially felt like the judge really wanted to put a certain person in jail.  But, when I presented to the judge an evaluation by a respected counselor, it opened doors for lenity, probation and treatment.  But, I also had to show the judge that my client was either doing the proposed treatment plan which was working or that my client was amenable to it.

A good criminal defense attorney will often make a strategic decision regarding an evaluation for their client in order to procure a better result in court.  It is powerful for numerous reasons.

First, evaluations and treatment plans are often necessary in order to satisfy statutory requirements. For example, a misdemeanor DUI requires an ADSAP evaluation for sentencing.  Also, many serious felonies may be presumptive for prison and in order to get probation, you need to provide a persuasive evaluation and comprehensive treatment plan as an alternative in lieu of prison.  This is used when arguing a motion for dispositional departure.  It’s asking the court to give probation instead of prison.

Second, evaluations and treatment plans can change the way the prosecutor and the judge view the defendant.  I have witnessed many a judge and prosecutor can the way they approached my client when I showed them an evaluation that laid out issues that my client has been working on for months. This kind of proactive direction provided by an experienced lawyer can make a huge difference in a case.  Judges and Prosecutors often see defendants who simply approach the situation without purpose or a sense of really addressing the problem.  So, they appreciate seeing real steps.

Third, an evaluation from a respected professional is something tangible that a prosecutor or judge can see and consider more objectionably.  Alternatively, when it’s just the attorney speaking, it is heard, but it’s in the back of a judge or prosecutor’s mind that of course that’s what the defense attorney would say.

Fourth, my clients have often been personally helped by quality evaluations and treatment plans.  If you are going to go through the process, don’t just do it to check of a required box as part of class.  Use it as an opportunity to truly grow as a person.  While my goal as a criminal defense attorney is to represent my clients in court and get the best legal results possible, I also care about them as a person.  So, it is a pleasure to be a part of someone bettering themselves.

Sometimes, evaluations show a lack of anything.  On one hand, an evaluation pointing out a thorough and significant mental health or substance abuse problem can be helpful as it provides something to point to and address.  On the other hand, sometimes that’s simply not the issue.  If there is no specific diagnosable condition, then sometimes it be shown that the crime was more incidental and not typical of the defendant.  The message trying to be sent in this case is that this crime was a one time event and they are not likely to re-offend.  So, it could help a defendant avoid needless treatment or pointless classes