How Long Does A Drug Related Case Typically Take To Get Resolved?
It depends on the jurisdiction. Federal cases are typically resolved in less than a year unless the case goes to trial or has complex pre-trial discovery or suppression issues. State cases can go on longer but even they will be resolved, typically, in not much longer than a year. Your lawyer can exercise some control over how quickly the case is resolved. It depends on how quickly you are able to obtain discovery from the state. Discovery consists of police reports, or lab test results, or interviews of witnesses, or even depositions. So the ability to adequately assess a case and determine the resolution which is most beneficial for the client depends on how voluminous the discovery is, how quickly you get it, and whether you want to take depositions of any witnesses, or perhaps hire a forensic expert or an investigator of your own. That can make a case take longer. If a case is relatively straightforward, the evidence is relatively clear, then a case may be able to be resolved more quickly.
Are Most Drug Related Cases Resolved by a Guilty Plea or a Trial?
My analysis of what is in the client’s best interests is what informs my advice with respect to the most beneficial resolution of his case. The first task is always to get the discovery, to make a copy of the discovery and put it into my client’s hands. After an opportunity for both of us to review the discovery, we can sit down and look through it together. This allows me to determine, 1) whether there are any constitutional violations which might support a good motion to suppress evidence, meaning that the evidence might not be admissible at trial, and 2) if the evidence is admissible, how strong the evidence is.
I always go to visit a scene, for example, because you cannot really evaluate the accuracy of a police report or even effectively cross-examine a police officer if you have not been to the scene and looked at it yourself. A good defense lawyer needs to be fully informed about the factual basis for any crime, but especially this type of crime.
Once the assessment has been made about admissibility, and persuasiveness of the evidence, it is extremely important to review and examine the client’s past criminal history, if any. It is my practice to obtain copies of the court records of any prior convictions in order to determine exactly what the nature of that prior proceeding was and whether there may be an effective method by which to challenge it. The presence of prior convictions can make an enormous difference in my client’s potential liability for sentencing purposes, so this area of investigation is extremely important.
A thorough knowledge of the facts of the case and the facts of my client’s background not only prepares me to try the case, if that is in the client’s best interests but also to negotiate a favorable plea bargain. At the state level, many prosecutors will give a recommendation for disposition, meaning they will say, “If your client pleads to count 1 or counts 1 & 2 or whatever, I will recommend the sentence of X”. You can actually go back and forth often and negotiate that recommendation. If you get a recommendation that is a good recommendation and a decent outcome for your client, and you plead guilty pursuant to that recommendation, then have certainty about the sentence your client is going to get. This can be advantageous to my client
The bottom line, however, is that my client is the ultimate decision-maker with respect to the outcome of his or her case. I can help with the issues of suppression, admissibility and weight of evidence, as well as with the potential consequences of a decision. But, at the end of the day, it is the client’s decision to make. The best advice from a good defense lawyer must, therefore, permit the client to be well-informed, and clear-eyed about the choices he or she makes.
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