You know, sometimes it just does not pay to have a conscience! I mean, some Commonwealths just cannot accept an apology without forcing you to get a lawyer.
Take, for example, the case of 31-year-old Juan C., a New York gentleman (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). Saturday night, he was in Lowell when he had a…disagreement with a gas station clerk. Well, it became a bit of a heated disagreement.
Okay, he allegedly pulled a knife and threatened the clerk with it.
Well, ok, that does not look so good I admit. However, the Defendant actually returned to the gas station on Sunday to apologize for his behavior.
The clerk had an interesting way of showing forgiveness…he called the police.
The police, first believing the matter to be a robbery attempt, came to the station and arrested the Defendant on two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and a violation of the city’s dangerous-weapon ordinance.
As you know, I was a prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York, back in the 1980’s. Things may have changed since then, but an apology was not considered an appropriate sentence for assault with a dangerous weapon. On the other hand, as busy as the courts were, this would not have exactly been considered the crime of the century either as nobody got hurt and it does not seem like it actually was a robbery.
However, in a city where there is a specific ordinance about weapons, waving it around in a threatening manner is not something that is going to be taken lightly.
“But, Sam, he was from New York. He did not know about this city and its particular point of view about a knife.”
Lesson number one from today’s blog – ignorance of the law is not a defense.
Let’s assume that he never waved his knife around, but was simply found with it in his pocket for some reasons. Let’s say it is not illegal to be carrying the knife in New York. It does not matter. It is illegal in Lowell. The fact that he did not know that might be a mitigating factor, but that’s about it.
Lesson number two from today’s blog – mitigating factors often matter.
We do not know what is going to happen with the Defendant in today’s story. However, a mitigating factor is a factor that something that explains, or perhaps puts in a better light, the actions of a defendant.
In this case, the Defendant came back and apologized. We do not know if he also made a confession to the police. Making said confessions is often something I advise against (entirely depending, of course, on the specific matter). However, it is the duty of the defense attorney to use everything available in support of the client. This often includes trying to take a negative and turn it into a positive.
If the Defendant indeed confessed his guilt to the police, then he has the argument on his side that he not only voluntarily returned to apologized, but also accepted responsibility throughout. This may help him get a more lenient disposition short of trial.
Which leaves us at lesson number three from today’s blog. You want to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to help you make these decisions and utilize the available evidence to your benefit if you are facing such charges.
Even if you feel the charges are not all that serious, your record and potentially your liberty are at stake. It is serious enough.
Should you find yourself or someone you care about to be facing such an unfortunate situation and wish to discuss the matter with me, please feel free to call me at (617) 206-1942.
For the full article upon which today’s blog is based, go to http://news.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20090914cops_ny_man_apologizes_after_mass_knife_assault/srvc=home&position=recent