Preparing for a Long Prison Sentence
In the past thirty-plus years, the Snader Law Group helping people facing serious criminal charges in the Phoenix area. In that time, I have found that, after an arrest, clients ask me the same basic questions. How does bail work? How do I find a bail bondsman? How do I hire a criminal defense attorney? How much will a criminal defense attorney cost?
I answer those questions and many more in other articles and videos on YouTube and our website. But today, I want to tell you about a client, I will call him “Bob.” Bob asked some questions that may be more important if you are facing serious criminal charges in Phoenix, that is how to prepare for a possible long prison sentence.
Fight for Your Freedom but Plan for Prison
Sadly, our justice system sometimes gets it wrong and innocent people go to prison, especially if you are not represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney. The other side of the coin is, of course, sometimes guilty people go free. Guilty or innocent, you have the right to aggressive criminal defense, and you should hire the best attorney you can afford, but this is not about your guilt or innocence or hiring a criminal attorney.
When you are charged with a crime and the punishment carries a long prison sentence, you need to start dealing with the reality that you may go to prison. Take advantage of the time that you are out on bail. Plan and prepare for what might happen while formulating a winning defense strategy with your attorney.
Be Like Bob
Bob was smart and realistic enough to know that prison was a possibility. Bob was concerned about his family and his business and knew that he needed to have a plan. He could have curled up into the fetal position and done nothing while his trial was pending. Instead, he chose to fight like hell for his freedom and to take action to protect the things that mattered most to him. Starting by asking me what steps he should take to prepare for a possible prison sentence.
Important Steps to Take Before a Possible Prison Sentence
Step One: Power of Attorney
Whether you are still in custody or out on bail, you need to consider assigning the power of attorney to someone you trust. A power of attorney is a document that gives someone else the ability to act on your behalf. With a power of attorney, Bob could have someone manage his assets and take care of his finances if he was to get locked up. They could deal with things related to your house or help you to close your apartment. They could take care of your pets, pay your bills and take care of the day-to-day stuff that you would not be able to do if incarcerated.
In addition to choosing the right person to give power of attorney, you need to make sure that whatever form you use will accomplish what you need it to do. Banks, doctors, and other institutions all may have slightly different requirements, so you will need to check with each one to make sure the form you have chosen will work for them.
Step Two: Home and Large Assets
Part of preparing for a long prison sentence is getting your finances in order. A good criminal defense will cost some money, but if you end up doing time, you are going to money while you are behind bars to take care of your family, pay bills and fund your prison commissary fund.
Depending on your situation, you may consider liquidating some assets to raise money and reduce the debt load on your family. If you have a large home that has equity, you may want to downsize and put the remaining cash into your reserves. You may want to refinance the house to take some cash out or tap your home equity line of credit or take out a second mortgage. I can refer you to real estate and finance professionals who can push these kinds of transactions through quickly.
Beyond funding your defense, cash from your home can be used to pay your bond. The bail bond fee is 10% of the total bond. You do not get the bond fee back, the bail bondsman keeps it, and that fee can be substantial. Let’s say Bob’s bond is $75,000. Using a bail bondsman, Bob would need to pay $7,500 to the bondsman for his services. But, if Bob was to pull $100,000 out of his home, he could post his own bond $75,000 bond and get all $75,000 back at the conclusion of his case, saving him $7,500. He would then have $25,000 for bills, legal fees, and other expenses.
Step Three: Smaller Assets
Maybe you don’t own a home, or you don’t have equity to pull from, you may still have smaller assets that can be leveraged to keep you in cash. Boats, cars, and RV’s can often be sold quickly so that you can access the cash. You may also consider selling or pawning smaller luxury items like watches, clothing, artwork, furniture, musical instruments, baseball cards, collectibles, or guns.
Step Four: Get into Counseling
The stress of facing a long prison sentence can be overwhelming for you and your family. So, getting everyone into counseling would be beneficial. Counseling can help you deal with the feelings you have and mentally prepare for what may come. Moreover, if, for example, a plea deal is an option, and the prosecutor is on the fence about it, the fact that you are in counseling may sway them in a favorable direction. Even if the only thing you get out of it is a better deal, it is worth doing. Again, if you don’t have a counselor or can’t get one through your insurance, I am happy to refer you to some that we work with just for this kind of situation.
Keep in mind, depending upon the nature of the crime, counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists all have reporting requirements. If you tell them that you have committed a crime and you provide specifics, they are legally required to report what you told them to the authorities. So, you will need to avoid discussing things like victims’ names, dates, locations, and other details related to the crime you are accused of committing. Most experienced counselors and psychiatrists understand this and they won’t even go down that path with you.
Keep your statements vague and general. For example, you might say that you have problems in general with alcohol or drugs. Many of my clients are facing sex offenses; they need to limit what they tell the counselor to the general crime they have been accused of but not elaborating on it. Again, do not name the victim or discuss the location, date, time, or other specifics about the charge.
Starting with counseling may help to reduce the severity of the punishment but the court does not necessarily have to give you credit for it at the time of sentencing. If you are found guilty and part of the sentence is counseling, you may very well have to start over, but this is not always the case.
Avoid Prison Time
If prison is a possibility, having a power of attorney, dealing with your finances, and getting counseling are good ways to prepare. However, hiring the right criminal defense attorney is the best way to avoid prison altogether.
When you hire the Snader Law Group to represent you in a criminal matter, we will guide you through how to prepare for a possible prison sentence, but more importantly, we have three decades of skill and experience helping to keep our client out of prison.
If you have questions about preparing for prison or how to avoid prison, give us a call or chat with us online now. The consultation is free.