Queens County Bar Association
Martindale Hubbell - Distinguished 2023

Are There Any Alternative Programs Available for Assault Offenders?

New York does not make a particular distinction with the fact that it’s an assault case. New York makes this distinction as to whether something is a violent or a non-violent crime. For instance, assault in the third degree is a misdemeanor, and it has no mandatory penalties of any kind. The judge can choose to sentence somebody to an anger management program as a condition of their release, or various other programs, but the law does not require it. Once you get to assault in the second degree, that’s a class D violent felony, and it is mandatory to impose at least some jail sentence on a case like that.

When you get up into the higher assault charges, if it is a violent felony, the judge has no choice. The judge must sentence you to a state prison, dependent on the level of the crime. If it’s Class C violent felony, the minimum is 3 and a half years. For a Class D felony, the minimum is 5 years. There can be enhancements for different other reasons, but the judge does not have the power, if you are convicted of one of those charges, to give you probation or some sort of a program.

What Happens if the Alleged Victim Retracts Allegations or Does Not Want to Press Charges?

In domestic violence cases, the charges will almost never go away because the complainant wants to withdraw them. I would estimate that probably in more than half of domestic violence cases, once the alleged victim sees what’s really going on and that the accused is facing serious criminal charges, he or she will try to withdraw the charges, and the District Attorney won’t go along. The District Attorney will try to make the case even without the victim, if they possibly can. In many cases, this can be done. People should know that if they bring these charges just to get things calmed down, or to just get the other person out of a house for a day or two, that doesn’t work. The defendant spouse or significant other will face possible consequences far more serious than the complainant intended.

In minor non domestic violence cases, the District Attorney is far more likely to agree to let the charges be withdrawn if they know that the complainant sincerely wants not to prosecute the charge and is not being coerced or bribed. But in domestic violence cases, the District Attorney will never willingly give up the case.

Do You Recommend Pre-Trial Counseling Or Treatment To Clients In Assault Cases?

In almost all of these cases, particularly domestic violence cases, we’ll do one of two things. Even before speaking with the District Attorney, I’ll suggest to a defendant that they enroll in an appropriate program, if I think it would help a case. Sometimes the program is for anger management, sometimes alcohol treatment, and sometimes a parenting program. More often, however, counseling or treatment is done in consultation with the District Attorney, and it then becomes the basis for working out a disposition. Sometimes the disposition can be worked out where in lieu of going to jail, a person is going to do the program. Other situations may involve doing the program and avoiding any kind of a criminal conviction of any kind, which for someone who is not an American citizen, can be extremely important in order to avoid deportation.

How Do You Advise Clients That Are Hesitant To Hire An Attorney For Fear Of Looking Guilty?

Even experienced attorneys would find it difficult to represent themselves. For one thing, an individual can’t negotiate directly with the District Attorney, because the DA is not going to speak with a defendant. So even assuming a person had all of the knowledge and experience that would allow them to effectively represent themselves in a case where they are the defendant, there is never a time when a person should represent himself or herself. Generally, a good lawyer will be able to work the case out, particularly when there are mitigating circumstances of any kind. A good lawyer will know how to work it out in a manner that avoids the trial and gives a person back their life, which is the most important thing that a lawyer can do. Just as important, a good criminal defense lawyer will be able to guide you into determining whether you should actually take your case to trial and, if you do, will effectively represent you at trial.

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

The biggest thing that sets us apart is just long-term experience, particularly in the courts in Queens County. Very few cases wind up going to an actual trial. Most cases either are worked out, hopefully in a very favorable way, without ever having to go to trial. They don’t usually result in a jail sentence, and we try to keep people’s record clean. The problem for many people is they don’t know what a good disposition is. We see lawyers walk out of the court with their clients happily thinking they’ve gotten a very good disposition of their case, when in fact somebody like myself, or other lawyers like me, will look at each other and say we could have gotten the client a much better result.

It’s not because the attorney wasn’t smart, but he just didn’t have the experience, particularly in that county, to work out the best possible disposition for a client. That’s the biggest thing. When we get a case, the first thing we do is listen to our client very carefully. We want to know what really happened, and why it happened. From that, we can get a pretty good idea as to how we can best meet their interests, and get things worked out in a favorable way. If it’s a domestic violence case, one of the most important things in most cases, is trying to get the family back intact as quickly and as painlessly as possible. If you don’t have broad experience in that particular area, you are going to have a hard time doing that.

For more information on Alternative Programs For Assault, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (718) 793-5700 today.

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