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I work in the criminal justice system. My client, Markus, was in pretty deep trouble. I won't go into the details but let me say that this young man committed his crime and then resisted arrest. In the conflict Markus wound up seriously injuring a police dog. If you don't know how much a part of the "family" a police dog becomes then maybe this story won't be very meaningful to you. But, oh my . . . were the police angry at Markus. They made a point of working the legal system to be sure it was known that they were out for "justice" for Markus.

I gave Markus some advice. I told him, "Listen, you just got out of jail but you still are going to have to face the judge. In my opinion you are most certainly going to be held accountable. And, in my opinion the judge is not going to be starting off with a favorable opinion of you. It just doesn't make sense to think you are going to get off on something like this. It also is not reasonable to think you are going to be getting any kind of a light sentence or slap on the wrist. If you agree, then let's not think about how we can fight the system. Let's think about what you can do." (Emphasis on the word "do").



Let's not think about how we can fight the system. Let's think about what you can do.



I have a firm belief in everything I said to Markus. I have a strong confidence that I am a realist. I also have a guiding principle that says Markus can, if he wants, take action which will demonstrate he takes this matter seriously. Markus can show the judge that he wants this incident to be a one time mistake and learning experience. Markus can show that he will step up and make responsible choices. Yeah, yeah, Markus said the same stuff everyone says who is in a situation like this. (Emphasis on the word "says.") You know, "I'll never do this again." "I've learned my lesson." "That was stupid." "Just give me another chance.""I'll do anything." I quickly let Markus know that the judge and I hear this stuff everyday. If he is serious, he can't look like every other offender that walks in the room. The most important message I sent to Markus was, "Markus in the legal system people don't spend much time listening to what you say. They look at what you do."

I proceeded to outline 19 action steps Markus should take "before" he goes to court. I told him he needs to:

1) Pay restitution to your victim - in full. (Sell anything you own to make it happen.)
2) Write your victim and apologize
3) Pay the veterinary bill for the police dog.(Sell anything you own to make it happen.)
4) Pay for the officer's damaged uniforms.(Sell anything you own to make it happen.)
5) Pay for the damage to the two police cars.(Sell anything you own to make it happen.)
6) If he can say it and mean it, then write an apology letter to the police chief and department - don't ask for forgiveness.
7) Donate at least 120 hours to a pet shelter.
8) Submit to urinalysis tests each week so you can show that you are, and have been, free of drugs since this happened.
9) Meet with a counselor weekly if possible and show that you are working on your problems.
10) Get a job - any job, even 5 hours a week.
11) Take an anger management class - (think you need it or not).
12) Get back into college and show good grades.
13) Write a letter to the judge explaining what you have "done" and what your future goals are.
14) Get letters from reputable people who will speak about your character.
15) Come to court in a suit and tie, or at least respectfully dressed up.
16) Look the judge in the eye when you talk to her.
17) Always end any statement you make to the judge with "your honor.)
18) Make no excuses.
19) Be ready to accept any sentence the judge hands down - and get that done too.

I was right. Markus did not get off. But what makes Markus remarkable and without a doubt what changed everything is the fact that Markus actually followed through and did, completed, finished, accomplished every single item on my list. The judge went into a ten minute presentation on how, in all her years on the bench, she has not seen a client do so much to show how concerned they were about what they had done. She also went into a stern lecture about how irresponsible and unacceptable his behavior had been that night. No . . . the judge was not particularly soft in her sentence. What did she do? She ordered that Markus do each of the items that he had already done and placed him on probation for 1 year. The police wanted more, the district attorney wanted more - but Markus, he demonstrated that he can make good choices and that he takes his charges seriously.

I'm hoping you already know what my advice is to you. If you have an upcoming court case, then you are certainly aware that there are likely going to be consequences - probably a fine, community service work, restitution and a criminal record. Certainly all of this can have an impact on your future. If you are a repeat offender, let me say this one more time just for you - "In the legal system people don't spend much time listening to what you say. They look at what you do." Give the district attorney (the prosecutor) and the judge a reason to think you are different - that you are not all talk and promises.



In the legal system people don't spend much time listening to what you say. They look at what you do.



First, attend to victim needs. I do not suggest the above list for you. Each list should be thought through so it fits your particular circumstances and should always be done in consultation with your attorney. If you don't have an attorney my suggestion (not advice) is that you consider, when possible, making every attempt to attend to your victim's needs. Pay restitution and or civil fines! (Use caution, sensitivity and judgment if you choose to contact your victim. They are often frightened or very angry at you.)

Secondly, I suggest you seek the right level of intervention (education, counseling, treatment) which meets your personal needs. If a class and or education is adequate then you might consider taking the Offender Solutions© online class. If you need a more serious intervention then find a local therapist - you likely have a county mental health department which can provide services for you or make a referral. Certainly, if you are suicidal, behave violently, are notably depressed or have or think you may qualify for a mental health diagnosis you need to seek competent professional help in your community.

Third - My third thought is that you would likely do well to impose a consequence on yourself. Use your imagination and do what is right for you, under your circumstances. You might make a donation to a directly related charity, you may do like Markus and donate time to a charity that directly relates to your crime, you might give lectures to target groups, etc.

Long story short . . . I am suggesting you consider three issues:

your victim,
self improvement (education, like Offender Solutions offers; counseling; treatment),
holding yourself accountable.

My point . . . take action, do it BEFORE you go to Court.

I am trying hard not to give you advice. Be sure to read our disclaimer. The fact is we don't know you or your circumstances and therefore can't address your specific needs. When it comes to legal issues you should seek competent legal advice. When it comes to your mental health you should always seek competent counseling, psychological, psychiatric and or medical advice. If you need an education class I think you have come to a very good place.


My point . . . take action, do it BEFORE you go to Court.



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Last Updated: December 21, 2019






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