When someone is charged with a crime, it is essential to find an attorney with wide-ranging knowledge and the ability to thoroughly research the current trends in criminal law, which can help protect an individual’s rights and is critical in achieving the best possible outcome. Not long ago, a man with a checkered criminal history came to Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico in an effort to avoid a lengthy prison sentence after he was charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin in federal court. After pleading guilty, the prosecution made a recommendation during the sentencing process to classify him as a violent career offender, which increased his possible prison sentence from between 70 and 85 months to 151 and 188 months, based on previous robbery convictions.
Attorney Michelle Derrico knows that the mistakes in someone’s past can haunt them forever, so with the goal of limiting the time her client needed to serve in prison, she began crafting a response to this recommendation. After reviewing the Supreme Court’s findings in Johnson v. the United States, the highest court in the country purposed that some of the language used to describe the violent offenses used to classify someone as a career offender was often too vague and varied between states. As a result, before categorizing a defendant as a career offender, the definition of the listed crimes must specify how it is violent before it is taken into account.
In her client’s particular case, the recommendation was centered upon a previous robbery conviction from another state, which provided three different ways to commit a robbery. Since one of these guidelines did not include using violence, attorney Derrico effectively argued that since imprecise language was used to describe his past crime, there was no way to tell if the act included violence; therefore, it should not be used. This ambiguity, coupled with her client’s willingness to cooperate with the government led the Judge to impose a 48-month sentence, which was a resounding success that may not have been possible without the meticulous representation he received.
The outcome of an individual case depends on a variety of factors unique to that case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any similar or future case.