Recently, I was discussing a case with a client who was charged with possessing drugs with the intent to distribute in a school zone. It became clear that he had suddenly come into contact with the need to express a certain confusion.
It happened just after I explained to him, once again, that the School Zone count carried a mandatory minimum sentence of two years.
“Yeah, but they can’t send me to jail, even if convicted”, opined “Client X” (just think of him as a police officer who shot someone. They’re names are never revealed).
I asked him for the reasoning behind this legal opinion and he explained that he had a clean record and so, somehow, the mandatory minimum did not apply to him. I then reminded him that his record was far from clean. True, he had no prior convictions, but he had two pages of previous cases which had ended short of convictions, such as dismissals and a Continuance Without A Finding. Most of these cases, by the way had been drug cases.
“Ok”, he explained , moving happily along to Theory “B”, “but none of those cases involved this particular drug that they are charging me with now.”
The conversation became less happy when I explained that this did not really matter. In the vernacular, “drugs is drugs”. Particularly when the allegation is that you are selling them.
It is because of such misconceptions by those not trained in the law that I address today’s story.
18-year-old Mike Ranelli of Lynn (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) is in trouble at Lynn District Court.
You see, the Defendant has allegedly been seen detonating homemade fireworks at two locations around the North Shore this week.
The charges he faces include throwing an “explosive or destructive device or substance” and unlawful possession of explosives or substances “that can be used to create a destructive or incendiary devices. ” This would fall under the category of weapons charges…only a bit more so (with the exception of guns).
Naturally, according to the Commonwealth, this vital and complicated matter is still being investigated.
Nobody was injured at either explosion, by the way.
Even without political battles underlying them, criminal prosecutions carry their own set of rationales. Some of them are consistent with peoples’ normal views about logic and reality. Often, they do not. A quarter century of criminal practice has taught me this semi-parallel reasoning. That is one of the things, frankly, that makes me good at what I do. It is part of why I tell you that and experienced criminal defense attorney is what you want.
Many people believe that the “no harm, no foul” rule exists in criminal cases. It does…but only to a certain extent. “No harm done” does not make the difference between whether you are in trouble or not. At most, it will mean the difference between “you are in big trouble” and “you are in really seriously big trouble.”
I consider any criminal prosecution “big trouble”.
In the instant case, nobody was injured. The fact is, however, someone could have been injured. Further, even if nobody could have been injured, crime comitted is still against the applicable law.
That is enough.
If that does not make any sense to you, remember what has become one of the “bottom line” concerns in the criminal justice system.
That would be “C.Y.A.” I assume that you understand the initials.
The most commonly spoken concerns I hear when I try to appeal to silly things like compassion or fairness is, “But what if I cut him a break and he goes out and kills someone?”
“But he has no prior record and this is a case where he is charged with simply pushing his friend down onto a chair in the middle of a heated debate. This seem like a likely candidate for murder to you?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know what he is going to do once he goes out there…!”
It is really not the fault of the actual prosecutor in the conversation with me. He or she is simply following the orders and the indoctrination of the office. In short, trying to keep his or her job.
It is the system which places such power into the hands of prosecutorial politicians that creates the atmosphere…and it is a criminal justice system that overlooks realities of law enforcement which helps to empower it.
But, now I am repeating what I complain about in these blogs so very often.
The bottom line to you? You may be the smartest human being on the planet. Do not assume that you understand what passes for logic in the criminal justice system. You may be right about some things and you may be wrong about others.
Do you really want to take that kind of risk when your liberty and future are at stake?
I am kind of thinking….not so much.
If you want to discuss a case with me, feel free to call me at 617-493-3000 for a free initial consultation.
Anyway, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!
To view the original story, please go to: http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2011/02/lynn_man_18_cha.html?p1=Local_Links