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Law & Schriener, LLC Aug. 10, 2023

What Are The Penalties And Alternative Programs Available For Drug Offenders?

The penalties and alternatives to sentencing are quite diverse. The federal system does not, as I said, have as many misdemeanors and the penalties in the federal system are, as a general rule, greatly more severe than the penalties in the state systems. That is why oftentimes cases will be investigated by state law enforcement officers, and then be referred for prosecution to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, because the penalties are so much worse. If there is a conviction, the police officers still get credit but the person is looking at much more severe penalties. Mandatory minimums in the federal system are a huge problem because the federal courts do not have the legal authority to impose a sentence below those mandatory minimums unless the government asks the court to do so. That government motion for a lower sentence is only available if the defendant has cooperated.

The state of Missouri has minimum sentences for A, B, and C felonies. In the state courts, however, the judges can suspend imposition of sentence. That means, for example, the court can pronounce the minimum sentence, but then suspend the imposition of that sentence. In such an instance, the court would impose a period of probation which, once successfully completed, means that the case is no longer visible on, and the person does not have a conviction. There is a lot more flexibility in the state courts than there is in federal court.

Happily, all of the systems do have drug courts in place now. They vary pretty much depending on where your jurisdiction is but for example, in the city of Saint Louis and in the County of Saint Louis, you can get either pre-plea or post-plea drug court. If it is pre-plea, the prosecutor has to recommend it, and all of the drug courts have criteria and requirements that a person must meet in order to be eligible for entry into the program and in order to successfully complete the program.

In general, those requirements or prerequisites include a) the pending charge cannot be a violent crime; b) the client must have no, or only relatively minor, prior convictions; and c) there should be evidence that you have an ongoing drug problem that either has not been sufficiently addressed in the past or that maybe could be beneficially addressed again; and d) there must be evidence that the pending crime arose out of that drug problem. Drug courts can absolutely provide an alternative to prosecution and the possibility to avoid a conviction. Typically, a participant will have to be in the drug court for a period of time, usually up to a year, and attend both periodic court hearings and counseling.

What Sets You And Your Firm Apart In Handling Drug Cases?

Probably one of the things that set my firm apart is that I have been doing nothing but criminal defense since 1991. I have represented a lot of people charged with drug crimes. I was a federal public defender for the first 10 years of my career, so through the whole 90s, I was in the defender’s office and represented a slew of people charged with drug crimes. Approximately sixty percent of our cases were drug cases. So, I have been in court a lot, I am very familiar with the United States sentencing guidelines, I have tried a lot of cases, I have done a lot of appellate work.

Since I went private in 2002, I have now enlarged, expanded upon, and enhanced that experience. I have been in court and tried many cases in the state courts, as well as continuing to represent people charged with federal crimes. I have appeared for clients in counties all over the state of Missouri, and many in southern Illinois. I have appeared for clients in federal courts in both the Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri, including the Southeastern Division of the Eastern District of Missouri (in Cape Girardeau, Missouri) and in Springfield, Missouri. I have appeared for clients in the federal district courts in the Southern District of Illinois, including in E. St. Louis, Illinois and in Benton, Illinois.

The depth and variety of my experience, therefore, includes a familiarity with the procedural differences among many courts. It includes both trial and appellate experience, meaning that I have good writing and research skills, which, in turn, inform my courtroom abilities. I know how to make a record. I know how to conduct an investigation. I know the questions to ask.

My practice now allows me the ability to spend time reviewing discovery, or researching an issue, or visiting a scene. Most of all, it allows me the time to spend with my clients in order to get to know them, to understand their specific issues and needs, and to have a really three-dimensional perspective of the facts of their cases. My experience gives me the ability to move quickly, if that is required, both in court and in response to minute-by-minute developments. It allows me to listen with an informed ear to my client, to law enforcement, to prosecutors, and to witnesses and potential jurors. I am able quickly to spot issues, and thoughtfully to research and investigate possible outcomes and solutions. I represent my clients as I would want to be represented in their shoes.

The bottom line is, my client is always my secret weapon. He or she was there, knows what happened and knows his own questions and concerns. He can review the discovery with me and say, “What they say happened is impossible,” because there is no second story balcony, or because you can’t see that yard from where they were standing, or whatever the case may be. This is one of the things I like about my work so much. Each client, and each case, brings a unique set of facts, a unique and new application of venerable constitutional principles, and an array of new and creative solutions.

I have never practiced in any area other than criminal defense. I do not practice in any other area now. I do this work because I love this area of the law and the ability to make a difference for people and help them through an enormously stressful and complex situation. Each case makes me a better lawyer.

For more information on Penalties & Alternative Programs For Drugs, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling today.


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