The Presentation Letter: Helping the Prosecutor Make the Fair Decision
The Presentation Letter
In both state and federal court, the prosecutor is the primary person who decides whether or not criminal charges will be filed, and at what level. In order to file criminal charges in state court, the prosecutor simply files a piece of paper, called an Information, with the clerk of court. In federal court, the prosecutor must submit the case to the grand jury to seek an Indictment. It is exceptionally rare for a grand jury not to indict a case, when the prosecutor asks for an Indictment.
Prosecutors usually decide to file an Information or seek an Indictment, after speaking to law enforcement officers, reviewing reports, and interviewing victims or witnesses. However, they rarely hear from the accused. At Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A., we know it is very important to make a written presentation to the prosecutor – before they make the decision to file an Information or seek an Indictment, because, once a prosecutor makes a decision about a case, it is rarely reversed.
The goal of each presentation is to convince the prosecutor not to file an Information or seek an Indictment, or at the very least, to file lesser charges. We provide information about three key areas of each case: (1) personal background and mitigation information about the client, (2) factual information, which establishes innocence, and (3) legal analysis and defenses. Our clients are an important part of our “team” defense, and they assist us with this important presentation.
Goal of Presentation Letter
First, by providing background information on our client, we paint a picture of the whole person. Prosecutors see “defendants,” but we represent human beings. We describe our client’s family, education, employment history, volunteer work, involvement in religious organizations, and hobbies. We discuss any hardships our client has faced, including medical issues, family tragedies, and substance abuse problems. Everything we say in our presentation letter is backed up by documentation, including family photographs, diplomas, military records, pay stubs, medical records, and character letters.
The second purpose of our presentation letter is to provide factual information that establishes our client’s innocence. When a prosecutor looks at a new case, they review the reports of law enforcement officers, which are often one-sided, and provide only the evidence and facts that tend to establish guilt. Our job is to provide the other side of the story. For example, in a DUI case, if there are witnesses who say our client was not impaired by alcohol or drugs before getting into his or her vehicle, we provide sworn affidavits from those witnesses. If a person did not perform well on roadside field sobriety exercises, due to a medical condition, we provide documentation of that medical condition.
Lastly, we provide legal analysis and defenses to the alleged crime, which often is not readily apparent to prosecutors, who handle a large volume of cases. The legal issues are as varied as the crimes charged. For example, the stop, detention, search, or arrest by law enforcement may be illegal, and provide grounds for suppression of evidence. Miranda warnings may not have been given properly, making statements inadmissible. Physical evidence might have been collected improperly, thus, tainting the evidence. We review and analyze all of these issues carefully, and point out all weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case, in an attempt to convince them to honor our request for disposition.
A Few Of Our Successes
Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A. has had numerous successes in both federal and state court, due to thorough and persuasive presentations. This summer, a client learned he was the subject of a federal investigation for sexual abuse of a minor and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place. He received a letter from the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), stating he could plead to one of the charges, or they would proceed with an Indictment on both. He was facing possible penalties of up to 30 years in prison.
We thoroughly researched our client’s background, the allegations, and defenses to the charges, and then sent a 32-page presentation letter, with exhibits, to the DOJ prosecutor. We discussed our client’s good background and accomplishments, discredited the primary witnesses for the prosecution, and analyzed legal defenses, including a violation of the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution, and a coercive waiver of our client’s right to remain silent, pursuant to Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967). In September, we were informed by the DOJ prosecutor that she was not going to seek an Indictment. Our client was not arrested or charged, and can now go own with his life.
Similarly, in a state case, our client was arrested in Duval County for the second degree felony, aggravated battery, and the third degree felony, battery on a law enforcement officer. He was accused of stabbing his friend with a knife, and in the process of running away, hitting a security guard. If convicted of both charges, he was facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
We prepared a presentation to the state prosecutor, which described our client’s good background, educational accomplishments, employment in the medical field, and lack of prior record. We also provided a history of the alleged victim’s behavior, which included a reputation for violence, the abuse of prescription drugs, and several prior arrests. We explained our client’s good faith belief that he was being attacked, and outlined his right to defend himself, under Florida’s stand your ground law. After reviewing our presentation, the prosecutor declined to file the aggravated battery charge, and agreed to reduce the felony battery on a law enforcement officer to a misdemeanor assault on a law enforcement officer. Our client was able to avoid any felony convictions, and continue his career in the medical field.
Prosecutors want to make the right decision, and they don’t want to proceed with criminal charges they might have difficulty proving. By providing thorough presentation letters to prosecutors, before they make a filing decision, we can help prosecutors make the right decision, which in most cases, greatly benefits our clients.