Picture Day

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Four Lawyers at Chris Mahre & Associates

So it was picture day yesterday at Chris Mahre & Associates.  Once again, I was of course displeased with my photo.  It’s not that I’m particularly vain, but the effort to force a smile is something I abhor.  Its that sense of dread I picked up after seeing my seventh grade class photo.  It’s a weird sense though, since I’m not shy and enjoy litigation.  I guess I just don’t like being caught on camera.

I think everyone else took a pretty good photo in this one though, so I had to agree it was the one that should go on the website.  From left to right, yours truly, Brandy Ellis (with whom I worked at the DA’s office and now does estate work for us), Chris Mahre (the principle), and Alice Geyer (our most recent addition, who does the family law and bankruptcy).  Let me know what you think!

It Must Be A Good Deal If I’m Not Going To Jail… Or Maybe It Isn’t.

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In Colorado, like most places, the first thing that scares the willies out of people when the government charges them in a criminal case is the threat or the perceived threat of jail.  Imagine their relief when the DA offers to let them plead guilty to the crime and takes away the threat of jail.

In truth, although a jail sentence is one of the listed possible penalties for every charge except a petty offense or an infraction, often, though not always, the possibility of jail is remote.  Even if the law requires detention, there are many types of detention.

What makes the threat of jail real?  There are many factors.  What does the defendant’s past criminal history look like?  Was there a person victim?  How full is the county jail presently?  What are the sentencing patterns of this judge?  The list is very long.  Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult for a layperson to know all the variables.

When you negotiate with the District Attorney in a case in Colorado, it is very important to know not only what the absolute worst outcome for you might be (which is the purpose of an arraignment), but also practically speaking, what the likely worst outcome might be.  Only then can you truly make an informed decision about how you want to handle you case.

Hopefully, you will only deal with the DA once, if at all, but keep in mind the distinct disadvantage that you are in.  The DA has the power of the State behind him or her and, even the most inexperienced DA will have done hundreds of criminal cases more than you and have an office full of experienced DA’s to advise them.  Even if you were a career criminal, a DA with 6 months on the job far outmatches your courtroom experience.  And they know this too.  How on earth could you be expected to evaluate the DA’s offer to settle the case fairly?

While the DA has an ethical obligation to treat a defendant fairly and to do justice in every case, they are no obliged to represent the best interest of a defendant.  What does this mean in practical terms?  They are not on your side.  Rarely if ever does a player go ask the opposing coach what to do next in the biggest game of his life and yet, predictably, people do exactly that when they go to speak to the DA.  The DA wants to move your case along and plead you out to a sentence that best serves the interest of the State!

Having a criminal record will impact your life for an exceedingly long time.  I can’t count the number of clients I’ve had that tell me that they have no criminal history and when I check something pops up.  “But that was 15 years ago!” They say, “I was a totally different person!  I was a kid!”  Doesn’t matter.  You will forever be tied to the person on that rap sheet, so take a moment to take this seriously.

Depending on a charge you may have more difficulty in any number of facets in your life.  Not married yet?  You likely will be one day.  If that marriage ever ends, don’t be surprised when the opposing counsel tries to bring out a conviction you had in the past about why his client is more suited to raise your children.

Looking for a loan to start your dream business?  The bank is going to run a criminal background check on you.  Maybe you get the loan anyway, but expect worse terms.

Your mother has fallen ill and your siblings disagree about whether you should be the conservator and guardian?  Expect that their lawyer will try to bring out any past criminal history to disqualify you.

You want the State of Colorado to give you a license to practice a profession.  Your criminal history may be a bar and will almost certainly be a hurdle.  The list is nearly endless and only one factor is jail.  With more and more records going electric and on-line, 20 years from now it will be very difficult to hide from your past.

When you are charged with a crime, you should seek legal help immediately.  If you are already in the process, you should stop now and ask the judge for the opportunity to get legal counsel.  Get the best legal counsel you can afford.  Don’t mistake this for getting the most counsel expensive necessarily, but do get the best: the lawyer that meets your individual and special needs.  If you can’t afford an attorney, ask the court to appoint you one.  Under no circumstances should you go it alone.  The more you try to, the worse position you will put your case in.

I tell clients regularly that the criminal charge they are facing is the most important thing in their lives now baring either the death or birth of a family member.  I say this because they will never be able to change history and they can only fight their case one time.

Hello world! Pleased to Meet you…

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Glad to see that you stumbled across the newest addition to the blogosphere.  I hope to provide readers with legal information that is at the same time exciting, interesting and informative.

Some things you should know about me is that I am an attorney in Grand Junction, Colorado with a practice that mainly consists of criminal defense and immigration work.  I own my own practice:  Aaron Norris, LLC located in downtown Grand Junction, CO.

I am a graduate of the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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