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Craig Mastantuono April 24, 2018

We’ve talked about what happens and how to prepare if you get sent to jail, but how do you avoid going to jail in the first place if you’ve been charged with a crime? Especially if your case is a difficult one, the facts aren’t on your side, you’re caught, and a guilty finding is likely? By assessing and addressing the underlying cause of the criminal conduct, a skilled and experienced attorney can often steer your case off the jail path.

At Mastantuono & Coffee, even though our clients always tell us they want to avoid jail, we know that already - it's obvious, and makes perfect sense. No one wants to go to jail. If a case needs to go to trial because of a false accusation, then that's the route we go, and we work with our clients to prepare a vigorous defense. But any honest lawyer will tell you that most cases don’t go to trial. And as lawyers, how we work the cases when the client is guilty of a crime is just as important as the results we get at trial when the client is innocent. Our clients who are guilty regret their actions and want to make things right, and jail can disrupt the positive things in their lives, causing loss of employment, separation from family, interruption in treatment, and just generally being a traumatic experience. So, if the goal is avoiding jail, how do we do that?

Cases take time to proceed through the court system, and how that time is used can be critical to the outcome. Mastantuono & Coffee criminal defense lawyers and staff members invest extensive time talking with each of our clients about their background, their lives, and what lead them to this point. A criminal charge is a proverbial snapshot of our client on his or her worst day. It’s our job to expand the photo album to include other pictures of things that the prosecutor and judge don’t know, about the positive things our client does, their family and connections to the community, and the steps he or she has taken to turn things around or address what caused the criminal behavior. This takes effort, patience, and a commitment to really engaging the counselor part of “attorney and counselor at law.” Often, lawyers consider this "social work," and not a part of their job. This is plain wrong.

At Mastantuono & Coffee, understanding that criminal conduct most often happens for a reason, we work with our clients on referrals for treatment and services, working with a wide array of providers involved in mental health, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, cognitive intervention, and many other areas. We monitor their efforts and verify successful treatment progress to prosecutors and courts. This matters to good prosecutors, who will consider these efforts when negotiating a possible plea deal. And it matters to good judges, who will consider what the client has done to better their situation while the case has pended, and what the lawyers on both sides are recommending as a result. Those judges will often start out leaning towards jail, but will move to probation and other non-jail sentences based on the months that we've worked with our client through a productive process of addressing the behavior and lowering their risk of re-offending, a crucial factor for Wisconsin judges when sentencing somone in a criminal case. It's one of the most rewarding parts of our job when we help a client move to sobriety when he or she was addicted to drugs or alcohol, or connect a client with mental health needs to the necessary treatment while we handle their case.

Our attorneys also work with the client's family members, friends, church members and work colleagues, gathering character references and testimonials. An accused’s positive character is also a factor for judge’s to consider in deciding whether to order a jail sentence. As a case nears the plea/sentencing hearing, we make sure all treatment letters, character references, photos, records and other information is submitted ahead for the judge's consideration, typically with a written sentencing proposal. Lastly, we prepare our client for the hearing itself, to know what to expect and how to make a positive impression before the court. 

These things take effort and time. They aren’t necessarily aimed at getting to a not guilty verdict in trial. Rather, they lessen the degree of guilt for the offense, known in criminal justice as “mitigation.” At Mastantuono & Coffee we do this very well, with client services and investigative staff to devote to the client's case and the mitigation process. The result is that jail can often be avoided even if the client pleads or is found guilty. It’s a whole-person approach, rather than treating the client as merely a file or the case as simply a series of court appearances

It works well for our clients, putting them in a better place in their life and enabling them to avoid jail even if they can’t avoid a conviction. If you, a family member or friend has a case that doesn't look good, don't lose hope - give us a call and set up a consult at Mastantuono & Coffee SC.