Complexity in Defending the Mentally Challenged
The sad reality today is the criminal justice system often fails defendants who are mentally ill or intellectually challenged. No accused needs zealous representation more than the mentally incapacitated.
Having a defense lawyer with knowledge of both the law as well as their particular incapacities is vital, from insuring a prompt mental assessment or evaluation, to building a defense that encompasses their particular situation. Felony defendants with low-IQ scores as well as those having diagnoses of bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or paranoid schizophrenia, need defense counsel with an understanding and ability to fight for them.
Our firm has fought to save the mentally challenged from life sentences as well as the death penalty, arguing and proving up aspects of mitigation that help explain and support the defendant. Our firm offers extensive experience in both the intellectual and psychological aspects of mental incapacity.
For instance, Terence Lenamon has successfully incorporated QEEG (quantitative electroencephalography), an advanced brain mapping technology into his trial defense. His defense work with QEEG, is featured in the latest edition of Law and Neuroscience by Professor Owen Jones et al., a part of the Aspen Casebook Series serving those in the study of law.
Explaining Impact of Addiction in Criminal Defense
Addiction comes in many forms: street drugs (carfentanyl, heroin), to prescription medications (opioids) and alcohol. Those who are arrested and accused of serious felonies have the compounded burden of coping with the daily impact of the addiction upon their perspective and health while struggling with the battle for their freedom, perhaps even their life, as their criminal case advances and is prosecuted.
Key for the impaired accused is to face the accusers with an advocate who understands and appreciates their predicament. An experience defense attorney can fight for treatment in lieu of extended incarceration, appreciating that addiction is a disease to be managed. In federal cases, this may mean plea negotiations that successfully move outside of the standard sentencing guidelines.
We understand that in many cases, it is the addiction itself which is the core issue before the court. By arguing these complexities, from the nature of the crime itself, to the defendant’s age, desire for help, and the opportunities available to him or her for treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, there can be hope for the addicted defendant.
Youthful Offender / Juvenile
Anyone under the age of adulthood who is accused of a crime faces the chance that their lives have been changed forever. Even if the child or teen is not convicted, their criminal history (arrests, dismissed charges) may haunt them for many years.
Youthful offenders who are charged with serious felonies may proceed through the criminal justice system as adults in some jurisdictions, and they can be sentenced to severe penalties if convicted. (The death penalty is not available to juveniles in this country (Roper) nor is a life sentence without the possibility of parole (Miller).)
Special laws may work to help the young defendant. For instance, the Federal First Offender Act may help those arrested for a federal drug crime and who were under the age of 21 at the time of the offense to have their record sealed or expunged after they successfully complete probation.
In Florida state law prosecutions, those between the ages of 18 and 21 are governed by the Florida Youthful Offender Act, where sentencing can range from community supervision to incarceration in a state prison. Here, the defense works to negotiate for the juvenile within the confines of this statute for the most just sentence available to him or her under the Act.