Boys Will Be Boys, Part IV

Now, we come to the exciting conclusion of this gripping saga. In reality, plea bargains resolve about 90% of criminal cases. So, in many situations, the end is rather anticlimactic, at least from a Hollywood perspective.

Let’s assume that prosecutors dropped the drug possession charges against James’ girlfriend Vicki. After all, the evidence was very, very weak. That leaves us with the Three Musketeers. There are some issues with the evidence, which may warrant a trial. Then again, our three miscreants have an awful lot to lose. In addition to the prison time and large fines, there are some collateral consequences to consider.

Multiple Defendants in Chicago Drug Trials

Many, if not most, drug trafficking cases involve multiple defendants. These matters present some unique procedural issues.

As a general rule, prosecutors like to try multiple defendants together. Some Cook County jurors assume that if one person is guilty, the others are probably guilty, as well. Of course, jurors are not supposed to think this way, but it does happen. This pour-over effect could happen in this situation. The evidence is fairly strong against Kevin and Paul but fairly weak as to James. So, it might be a good idea to divide the trials.

Severance (the legal term for dividing trials involving multiple defendants) is not there just for the asking. The moving party must establish that the defendant could not get a fair trial without the severance. Assume Kevin or Paul made statements which implicate James. If that is the case, James’ defense could be compromised. His lawyer may not be able to cross-examine Paul or Kevin, as they would probably assert their Fifth Amendment rights.

Unlike separate trials, separate counsel is an absolute right. Technically, one lawyer might be able to represent all three guys, if their interests were not materially adverse and they signed waivers, but joint representation is almost always a bad idea. If all defendants have the same lawyer, the jury naturally assumes that they were all in the conspiracy together.

Separate lawyers can still work together, since these three guys are basically on the same side. Separate representation also preserves the individual rights of each defendant. In the end, that is what drug trials are really about.

Sentencing Alternatives in Chicago

The plea-or-trial decision is not an easy one. So, an attorney must accurately and quickly evaluate the case from both sides and make a recommendation to the client.

In this situation, a plea may be better, even though there are some issues with the evidence. Drug convictions are right up there with DUIs and sex offenses in terms of collateral consequences. Plus, assuming Kevin, Paul, and James have clean records, some alternative sentences may be available. Some examples are:

  • Offender Initiative Program: Defendants qualify for the OIP if they have squeaky-clean records and they are charged with probationable, non-violent felonies. The judge usually puts off proceedings for about twelve months. If the defendant completes the probation, the case is dismissed.
  • Drug Court Probation: Programs vary by county. But generally, the outcome is pretty much the same as the OIP. If the defendant completes probation, the case goes away. Drug court probation may also apply to violent felonies. However, there must also be evidence that the defendant is an addict.
  • Deferred Adjudication: Instead of a finding of guilt after a plea of guilty, the judge simply defers proceedings for a few months or years. Deferred adjudication has some significant pros and also some very significant cons.

These dispositions may not be available to a client who is charged with delivery or trafficking. No matter how one-sided the evidence seems, there is simply no telling which direction a jury will go. And, as we like to say sometimes, a bird in the hand is usually worth two in the bush. If the prosecutor offers something good, like deferred disposition, it is a good idea to at least seriously consider the proposal.

Count on Aggressive Attorneys

When a case goes to trial, an attorney should protect your rights and look out for your best interests. For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson.

(image courtesy of Nicolas Barbier Garreau)

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