Dr. Samuel Mudd might be the most infamous aider and abettor in American history. When Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth staggered into Mudd’s office with a broken leg, Dr. Mudd set the bone, didn’t ask questions, and was swept up in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy. He tried to set the record straight for the rest of his life. But to this day, his name is still dragged through the mud.
Many criminal accomplices are like Dr. Mudd. They don’t know all the plan’s nefarious details, usually because they don’t want to know. But under New York law, if they commit an overt act in furtherance of the criminal enterprise, they could face aiding and abetting charges. That overt act could be legal, such as giving medical treatment to a desperate man or putting gas in a getaway car.
Today, the collateral effects of a criminal conviction include much more than a damaged reputation. People with felony convictions on their records usually have problems finding good jobs and lovely places to live. They also forfeit many civil rights, and when other people commit crimes nearby, people with criminal records instantly become the prime suspects. A Rochester criminal defense lawyer, who could be counted on as a professional aiding and abetting defense attorney, often uses one of the defenses listed below to reduce or eliminate these consequences.
Lack of Evidence
Accomplices aren’t just in the wrong place at the wrong time. As mentioned above, they must intentionally commit an overt act that aids the criminal cause. Let’s focus on the requirements of mens rea (criminal state of mind).
Usually, prosecutors use conduct to prove mental state, like intent. So, if the defendant committed a legal act, proving unlawful intent is harder. However, the aforementioned willful blindness factor comes into play as well.
As a side note, “intentionally” is a nebulous state of mind below maliciously. Mudd was a Southern sympathizer, but he didn’t hate Lincoln. Therefore, he didn’t maliciously help Booth, but rather, he intentionally helped him.
The usual or unusual nature of the act often determines intent. Doctors often set broken legs but rarely set them in the middle of the night for a person who “fell in the bathtub” or whatever story Booth told Mudd. Actually, according to some, Booth threatened Mudd. If he did so, Mudd may have had an additional defense. More on that below.
This affirmative defense is closely related to a lack of intent. If the co-conspirator actively and vocally withdraws, s/he didn’t have the requisite intent, especially if s/he withdrew at a critical point.
Assume Sam asks Sally to watch a street corner later that morning while he “goes to the bank.” Sally initially agrees but gets cold feet and doesn’t show up. She withdrew, but her action might not meet the vocal withdrawal requirement. Then again, actions speak louder than words, so it’s complicated.
Usually, the state has the burden of proof in criminal cases. But the defendant has the burden of proof if s/he raises an argument like withdrawal, self-defense, or another affirmative defense. Therefore, most Rochester criminal defense lawyers use affirmative defenses as fallbacks rather than primary defenses.
Accessory After the Fact
For many decades, Dr. Mudd conceded that he intentionally helped Booth. But he argued that what was done was done. His medical help didn’t assist the prior assassination. Indeed, if the defendant was an accessory after the fact, the defendant usually isn’t guilty of aiding and abetting.
The issue is where “the fact” ends. Is Sam’s bank robbery complete when Sam grabs the money or when Sam leaves the bank? Naturally, prosecutors use the broad version; in most cases, judges back them up.
Coercion is a defense to almost all crimes, including accomplice liability. This affirmative defense could be direct or indirect.
If Mudd initially refused to assist Booth, Booth told Mudd, “Help me or else,” and Mudd reasonably believed Booth could make good on his threat, Booth coerced Mudd. All three elements of duress were present.
Frequently, a Rochester criminal defense attorney can only prove Part III. If Sally reasonably believed Sam could somehow hurt her, she might immediately agree to assist Sam, obviating his need to make a “help me or else” threat. A one-part duress defense could hold up in court, but an aiding and abetting defense attorney must convince jurors that Parts I and II were implied.
Count on an Aiding and Abetting Defense Attorney from Monroe County
Accomplices aren’t always liable in criminal court. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Rochester, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters throughout Upstate New York.
Unless they must accept the state’s first plea bargain offer, which is usually the case if the defendant is in jail, attorneys always conduct investigations. Defense lawyers don’t have to “prove” the defendant was “innocent” or “clear his name.” Instead, they must only create a reasonable doubt. So, what goes behind a criminal defense attorney investigation is outlined below.
The official definition of reasonable doubt isn’t very useful here. The term “sink and ink” is more descriptive. When an octopus is under pressure, it plunges into deep, dark water and muddies it to confuse whatever is threatening it. Likewise, a Rochester criminal defense lawyer sinks and inks when a defendant is distressed. Attorneys confuse jurors and create questions in their minds. This uncertainty is usually a reasonable doubt.
Testimonial evidence is usually the foundation of the state’s case. A Rochester criminal defense lawyer could investigate witness testimony formally or informally.
Many criminal cases, mostly possession matters and DUIs, are single-witness cases. The arresting officer saw the whole thing from start to finish. Police officers rarely informally discuss their testimony with Rochester criminal defense lawyers. Therefore, to obtain insight in this area, a lawyer must schedule a suppression hearing or, in a DUI, an administrative license revocation hearing.
Suppression hearings are very common in possession cases. Seized weapons, drugs, and other contraband are inadmissible in court unless officers have a valid search warrant or a narrow search warrant exception applied.
A probable cause affidavit must support a search warrant application. Common search warrant exceptions include an item in plain view and the owner’s voluntary consent.
In the witness interview context, the goal of a suppression hearing is not so much the suppression of evidence. Instead, a Rochester criminal defense lawyer requests this hearing so the arresting officer must testify on the record. Subsequent inconsistent statements significantly erode the officer’s credibility, even on relatively minor matters.
A DUI ALR hearing is a lot like a suppression hearing. An Administrative Law Judge decides if officers had probable cause to request a chemical sample. Even if the ALJ rules against the defendant, the officer testified on the record, so the hearing was a partial win.
A non-police officer testimony is required in property crime, assault, and fraud cases. Usually, the state cannot stop a Rochester criminal law attorney from speaking with these witnesses.
Informal witness investigations have two primary goals. First, an attorney must assess the witness’ testimony and determine its damage. Second, an attorney must look for ways to discredit the witness. Discrediting a witness in court is a delicate matter. If an attorney is too aggressive, jurors get angry.
Usually, the names of arresting officers and complaining witnesses are public information. These people are easy to find. Additional witnesses investigators overlooked might be harder to find.
These witnesses present a different version of events than complaining witnesses and police officers. A different version of events doesn’t mean the other witnesses are lying. Our brains aren’t video cameras. We remember events selectively.
Assume Sarah says Peter sexually assaulted her at a party. Paul testifies that Peter and Sarah were at the party but never alone together. Paul’s testimony doesn’t “prove” Peter was not guilty. But it does undermine Sarah’s accusations.
Attorneys must also look into the testimony of an unfriendly witness, perhaps an “eyewitness” to a murder. If the eyewitness might have been biased or incorrect, that fact could prevent the state from proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Once again, a Rochester criminal defense lawyer need not “prove” the witness was “lying.” A defense lawyer must only create a reasonable doubt.
Circumstances of the Case
Now, a few final words about the circumstances of the case, such as scientific evidence and extenuating circumstances.
Fingerprint and DNA evidence is scientifically reliable. Most other “scientific” evidence, such as clothing fibers and blood stains, isn’t scientifically reliable. Additionally, a credible expert must usually authenticate this evidence in court.
Extenuating circumstances aren’t legal defenses. But they affect the way jurors view a defendant. Semi-coercion is a good example. Assume Frank knows a dark secret about Nancy, and Nancy knows he knows. If Frank convinced Nancy to transport drugs, there’s an implied “or else,” which could be an extenuating circumstance in Nancy’s favor.
Rely on a Dedicated Monroe County Attorney
A criminal defense attorney investigation often allows lawyers to create reasonable doubt. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Rochester, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Virtual, home, and jail visits are available.
All defendants need lawyers, appointed or otherwise, even though most criminal cases settle out of court. Many defendants reason that because they negotiated an auto purchase on their own, they can also negotiate a plea bargain on their own. However, there’s a big difference between your money and your liberty. Therefore, the Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to counsel in criminal cases.
When the courts appoint a criminal defense lawyer, they usually do good jobs, especially if the offense was a “wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time” infraction. These defendants can generally comply with probation conditions, including staying out of trouble for extended periods. However, as a rule of thumb, defendants shouldn’t say yes immediately when the courts appoint a criminal defense lawyer. If they do, they meet their lawyers for the first time after the judge has signed the paperwork. So, they don’t know if the lawyer has the qualities necessary to be an excellent criminal defense lawyer.
For this reason alone, a private Rochester criminal defense lawyer is a much better option. Furthermore, the picture of the overworked court-appointed criminal defense lawyer is partially accurate. Court reimbursement fees might be as little as $100 for a misdemeanor plea. At that rate, when the courts appoint a criminal defense lawyer to a case, the lawyer has no incentive to investigate it or even negotiate with the prosecutor. Instead, the lawyer takes the first offer. That’s probably just as well, as many new public defenders don’t know how to defend cases properly. Unless your case checks all the boxes in this post, use some extra time and money and hire a private Rochester criminal defense lawyer.
Early Jail Release
As a lawyer, if the defendant is out of jail, time is on your side. In bond cases, the trial date is usually at least a year after the arrest date. The evidence has degraded by then, and better plea bargain offers are available. Even an inexperienced lawyer can catch a fish if it jumps into the net.
Jail cases require additional work. Attorneys must quickly and thoroughly prepare cases to get the best plea bargain offers. Court-appointed lawyers often lack these skills.
Furthermore, jail cases often require more court appearances, such as a bond reduction hearing. Court-appointed lawyers get paid flat fees. The more time they invest, the less money they make.
Court-appointed lawyers can handle these cases because possible punishments are light for the most part. Drug possession is a good example. Today, many lawmakers view drug possession as a health and safety matter, not a criminal law matter. Therefore, many cases that were felonies are now misdemeanors. Many former misdemeanors are now basically traffic tickets, if that.
Violent misdemeanors include assault, DUI, stalking, and everything else, except property crimes and the aforementioned drug possession crimes. These offenses have high penalties, including high fines and long jail sentences. Defendants should choose their own Rochester criminal defense lawyers in these cases. They shouldn’t use a lawyer whose name a judge drew from a hat.
Furthermore, the collateral consequences of violent crimes are significant. Most violent misdemeanors are CIMTs (crimes involving moral turpitude). CIMTs have long-lasting and usually permanent consequences in the legal system and everyday life. There’s no guarantee a private Rochester criminal defense lawyer can reduce or eliminate these consequences. But a personal lawyer has a much better chance than a court-appointed criminal defense lawyer.
Comfortable with Long Term, Strict Probation
Most states have hard probation caps. Usually, the probation cannot exceed two times the offered jail sentence (e.g., 90 days in jail or 180 days on probation). New York doesn’t have a hard cap. Therefore, probation sentences are much longer in the Empire State than in most neighboring states.
Long periods of probation make it challenging to adhere to all court-ordered conditions of probation. These conditions include:
- Remaining in the county at all times
- Staying current on child support and alimony payments
- Working and/or attending school full-time
- Avoiding disreputable people and places, like people with criminal records and bars
- Performing community service
- Drug treatment, anger management, or other professional counseling
- Avoiding all trouble with the law
As mentioned, court-appointed lawyers typically take the first offer. Private Rochester criminal defense lawyers negotiate with prosecutors to ease the length and/or conditions of probation. Furthermore, attorneys can file subsequent motions to modify or discharge probation.
No Criminal Record
We mentioned “wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time” offenses above. These individuals usually want to avoid further trouble and, if possible, clear their permanent records. So, they have a powerful incentive to toe the line. If a court-appointed lawyer doesn’t negotiate a favorable deal, these defendants nevertheless abide by its terms.
People with criminal records, even an old conviction or a conviction from another state, don’t see things the same way. Their permanent record is already tarnished, so they have little incentive to comply with probation terms. In these cases, since the defendant has a criminal record when the hammer falls, it falls much harder.
So, if you have a criminal record, you need the shortest and most lenient probation possible. That’s a tall order. Many prosecutors double or triple the offered sentence if the defendant has been in trouble before. It would be best if you had a good negotiator as well. Many prosecutors are convinced these people are “bad eggs” who don’t deserve second chances.
Connect With a Thorough Attorney
Typically, your liberty is too valuable to place in the hands of a court-appointed criminal defense lawyer. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Rochester, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Convenient payment plans are available.