As an Aggressive and Experienced Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney, I have represented dozens of people who have been charged with Sexual Solicitation of a Minor. In most of these cases, the defendant is caught in a sting operation conducted by state of federal law enforcement.
I represented a client in one such case this week in Baltimore County Circuit Court. The State was seeking a sentence of 10 years in the Division of Corrections with all but 5 years to be suspended. I was able to get him a sentence of just 4 weekends to be served in the Baltimore County Detention Center. This, in spite of the fact that we ended up in front of a judge who is widely regarded as a very tough sentencing judge and the fact that we literally had no defense. How did this happen? The answer is we put together a compelling presentation of mitigating facts and circumstances to argue for a sentence much less than the State was demanding.
It may surprise some to know, that in many criminal cases there really is no plausible defense to the charges. In street parlance these cases are known as “dead up” or “slam dunk” cases. The fact of the matter is that in many if not most cases, the police do their job correctly and gather enough evidence to make conviction a virtual certainty. In these matters, it is vital that the criminal defense attorney have the requisite experience and judgment to first recognize the fact that the case is indefensible and then the integrity to break the bad news to the client. In these cases it is always in the client’s interest to accept that conviction is inevitable and concentrate on doing what is necessary to limit the damage. In other words, work on mitigation. All too often, I see inexperienced or ineffective attorneys pursuing unrealistic defenses in court that result in their clients to be punished more harshly by the courts either because the client didn’t get the benefit of accepting responsibility for his or her actions, because the court believes that the client lied on the stand, or simply because the judge imposes a trial penalty. Another way to say that is that the court doesn’t give the defendant the benefit he would have received in a plea bargain. Here are the facts of the case I had this week.
My client was charged with Sexual Solicitation of a Minor. I quickly concluded that he evidence against him was overwhelming. He answered an add placed on Craig’s list by an undercover detective posing as a 13 year old girl. He emailed and texted with the “girl” and ultimately asked her to perform oral sex on him in exchange for $50 phone card. They agreed to meet at a McDonalds parking lot at certain time. When the client arrived he was greeted by the detective and several other members of his squad. He then gave a mirandized confession that he had in fact been the person who corresponded with “girl” and was there to meet her. The police seized his computer and were able to recover all of the chat logs as well as other incriminating evidence from it. Slam dunk.
Not only was this a “dead up” case but the client also had another compelling reason to try to work out a plea and limit the damage and that was that he was facing a certain federal indictment if he did not plead guilty in State Court. For the last few years, in most of these cases, the prosecutor will send a letter to the defense detailing the plea agreement that is being offered and threatening to refer the case to the U. S. Attorney’s Office if the plea is not accepted. This is not an idle threat as it is the policy of the U.S. Attorney in Baltimore to aggressively prosecute these cases. In the few instances that I am aware of where an attorney has rejected the plea offer, the Feds have indicted the case and these cases have not worked out very well for the client. As most are aware, the penalties in federal court are harsh and the sentences must be served without parole.
An attorney who finds him or herself faced with a case such as this does his client no service by making unrealistic promises or pursuing defense strategies that may sound good to someone who is scared and knows little about criminal law but have little or no chance of being successful. A responsible defense attorney in a case like this knows that it is best to try to minimize the damage which is exactly what I did in this case. In spite of the fact that the State was seeking a long prison sentence, my client walked out of the courtroom and was able to keep his job, his marriage and his life mostly intact. This only happened because my client accepted the position he was in and did everything I told him to do to put himself in the best position to argue for leniency.