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KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE

Talk to any current or former defendant and they will affirm that the pace at which the criminal justice system moves is completely different from what their impression were before he became embroiled in the system. Most people get their knowledge from TV programs, if which there are no shortage. Be it Law and Order, LA Law, The Practice or any of the other legal series that have been popular over the past 30 years or so, people have become conditioned to believe that the legal process moves at an efficient pace. Indeed, in the span of an hour and entire case is usually solved!

White collar defendants by in large come from the private sector. True, there are a fair amount from the public sector, but they are not the majority. Therefore, most defendants are used to working in an environment where efficiency is applauded. Suddenly being thrown in to the criminal justice system, which operates ate a radically different pace than what he is used to can be extremely frustrating for a defendant. True, defendants do have the right to a "speedy trial" but that is not an objective term by any stretch at all. Prosecutors need time to build their case and the statute of limitations will give them anywhere from 3-10 years to indict for white collar crimes. Just to give an example, from the time the investigation into me commenced until the time I ultimately indicted was over five years! I ultimately did plead guilty but had I con to trial, it could have easily dragged on another year or two.


The waiting game can often be as difficult or more difficult than the actual sentence. It also may actually be longer than the actual sentence. For someone who just wants to put everything behind him this is extremely frustrating. He wants to get on with his life and get out of this state of limbo. This is especially the case if he feels he is innocent but is suffering under a cloud of suspicion which is impacting his ability to find gainful employment and move on with his life. The cumulative effect of this frustration can potentially be a downward spiral where a defendant is left depressed and in a state of inertia where he cannot move forward. The prosecutors know this. They are well aware that for a defendant, stagnation is extremely difficult. Part of their strategy is that the longer a defendant waits, the more willing he will be to take a plea on their terms and not on his. Early on in the process every defendant is inclined to fight. Trial carries the risk of losing for a prosecutor. The longer a defendant has to wait, the more willing he will be inclined to avoid trial. At that point, they believe anyway, the defendant will negotiate on their terms on not on his own. Is this ethical? Well that depends on who is asked. Certainly, it is not illegal.

During these times it is important to focus on what a defendant's goal is. The goal, for any defendant, whether he is innocent or guilty is FREEDOM,  to be able to get out of the situation with as little suffering as possible; to be able to move on. That is the goal, plain and simple. During these times of frustration, rather than get angry at a system that he cannot control, he needs to look forward. There will be a time, be it in the coming months or years that this will be over. Yes, he may need to go to prison, to move that time closer but the time will come. There will be a life to lead when it is over and he will need to re-establish himself. He will once again be not only free from the custody of the custody but free of the mental baggage that he is carrying with him. He needs to focus on this at all times when he is not actively involved in his defense. Most critically, he needs to avoid the malaise that is the result from his own mental prison. He needs to start laying the groundwork now for when this is over. He needs to maintain healthy familial relationships so as to avoid being both physically and mentally absent from his spouse's and children's lives while he is not (yet) incarcerated. The worst thing that can happen is for him to serve 3 years in prison but have missed out on 6 years of family life. He needs to realize that for him to fully enjoy the benefits of freedom in the future, he needs to actually live his life in the present.

The criminal justice process is akin to a 162 game baseball season. You need to play well in April in order to better your chances of even making it to October. It is long, tituis, and often times boring but at some point it ends. However, the baseball player only looks forward to winning in October. The defendant looks forward to the rest of his life. Keep your eye on the prize Always.

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