Interviewer: What about things that would help a case of Drug Possession? As you work with someone that, they’re allegedly caught with marijuana or something like that, what are some things you’re going to recommend to them?
Eric Sachs: Again, first thing I recommend to everybody is don’t say anything. Then speak to a lawyer and figure out, it’s up to the lawyer to figure the strategy is to help them with their case. Next thing is, for instance, the marijuana, we go through from the beginning, where was it, how was it found, do you have a prescription for medical marijuana, what is the weight of the marijuana, is it in fact marijuana? Sometimes it looks like it. Maybe it’s not.
It is Absolutely Necessary to Speak with an Attorney Before Making any Statements to the Police
It’s very helpful to defend cases if people talk to the lawyers before they talk to the police, because a lot of times the police make a technical or procedural mistake and that will help us help people defend their case and actually get rid of the case.
Is Pleading Guilty and Throwing Yourself at the Mercy of the Court a Viable Option?
Interviewer: If someone feels that they’re guilty, they feel like they’ve been caught red-handed. Should they throw themselves to the mercy of the court, or should they fight the charges?
Eric Sachs: That’s an interesting question. We’re asked that a lot. That is a case-specific and a person-specific answer. Sometimes it’s best to, as you said, throw yourself on the mercy of the court because the court may be there helping you. They may be offering you that diversion program. They may be offering you the drug treatment program. They may be offering you a chance for help.Then there are people who are in a position because of their past history that they are not eligible for these drug programs, so even though the court may want to help them, if they’re not eligible and the only thing available to them is to do a specific amount of jail time, then throwing yourself on the mercy of the court is not always the best way to go either because it may lead to higher jail time.
Being Caught Red-Handed is Not the End of All Hope
Being caught red-handed, as it were, means that you need to find an attorney who’s well-versed in the laws and let the attorney work with the individual as well as with the court system to see what is the best outcome and how is that outcome. It may mean working with the judge. It may mean pleading guilty. It may mean throwing himself on the mercy of the court, but there’s a lot of investigation and a lot of alternatives that need to be explored first before you come down to that.
Self-Representation in a Drug Related Charge Often Backfires and Leads to Maximum Penalties being Imposed
Interviewer: Do a lot of people realize that there are times where they’re going to be prosecuted to the highest degree where the penalties are going to be at a maximum level and they think that they can plea their way through it on their own? Have you ever seen that kind of situation occur?
Eric Sachs: Yeah, people who come in here who have, sometimes they’ve been to court once or twice without me and they thought the direction they wanted to go in, and some of them are lucky enough that the judge said, “Go get a lawyer. You can’t do this.”Some of the clients that come in were not aware of what the sentencing that they were facing. Some people thought that the worst that’s going to happen is they’ll go to jail for three months or I’ll go to jail for three days and then they find out, hey, you know what, if you do what you wanted to do, what you thought was a good thing, you’re going to go to jail for three years or longer.
Just Like You Can’t Perform a Surgery on Yourself, You Cannot Try and Defend Yourself in a Court of Law
There’s reason that people go to law school and practice criminal law and you hire an experienced attorney, because we’ve been doing it for so long, we know that. I wouldn’t perform surgery on myself. I’d rather go to a doctor who went to medical school and knows how to do that. I don’t know why a person would want to try and defend themselves in a court of law.
There’s totally different procedures. There’s a whole different language. It’s a different world, and I think that the majority of judges appreciate that and would emphasize to people that they need to get a lawyer.
A Judge Asks Questions in Open Court and Tries to Deter Defendants From Representing Themselves in a Criminal Charge
Before a person can actually represent themselves on a criminal charge, whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony charge, the judge asks a lot of questions in open court on the record to try and make sure that this person understands that this is not what they should be doing. They really should hire a lawyer, but if they insist, as least there’s a whole understanding the judge can make that’s saying at least the person has fully understood, he knows what’s going on. We’ve tried our best to explain to him he really should get a lawyer, but this person wants to do it on his own and he does have a right to do that.
There’s a presumption of innocence but no presumption of intelligence.
By Eric Sachs