“It’s a rainy night in Georgia” crooned Brook Benton in the 1970 R&B classic, which is fitting on this rainy Monday during this rainiest time of the year here in soggy Atlanta, Georgia. Although it’s very wet and ugly outside, here in my office I am pondering possibilities for resolving a certain federal criminal case in which my client wants me to negotiate the best “deal” he can get. Looking for a deal sometimes means we need to get creative, and this leads to my never-ending quest for quirky and oddball federal crimes that sometimes come in handy. These strange federal crimes can be useful if they have a lower penalty than the one suggested by the prosecutor in the first place. I will do another post some other time soon to lay out some of the really stupid federal crimes that are on the books.
However, considering my current matter, I am facing the fact that some federal crimes have mandatory penalty structures. These make it especially hard to do my job of getting the lowest possible sentence for my client. For example, even if I convince the Judge that my client is entitled to mercy, the Judge’s hands are tied and he or she cannot impose anything less than the mandatory minimum punishment. As a result, I try to convince prosecutors to let my client plead guilty to a different, but related, crime which carries no mandatory minimum and a relatively low maximum punishment. Continue reading