Blog Article 

 Innocent Until Proven Guilty? 

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Michael Santos

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Does the justice really begin with a presumption of innocence? Sadly, people going through the system understand that a criminal charge brings fundamental changes. To start, a person becomes a “defendant,” and no one looks at a defendant from a perspective of innocence.

In response, all people going into the criminal justice system should begin preparing. Learn the process ahead. Below we offer some bullet points to master.

Presentence Investigation:
Within days of a conviction, a probation officer will connect with the defendant. The purpose of that meeting, theoretically, is for the probation officer to begin an unbiased review of the defendant’s history. But in reality, before meeting with the defendant, the probation officer will have received a digital version of the case file from the prosecutor. That file will not only be decidedly “unbiased,” it will have enormous influence on what the probation officer writes in the report.

By knowing what to expect, defendants can take affirmative steps to counterbalance the government’s version of events. Those deliberate steps may influence the outcome of the presentence investigation report that will follow.

Presentence Investigation Report (PSI):
The sentencing judge may or may not rely upon the information included in the presentence investigation report when deliberating over an appropriate sentence. Yet that document will play an essential role after the sentencing, when Bureau of Prison administrators evaluate the defendant. Administrators will rely upon the defendant’s PSI, along with the Judgment order when determining the appropriate security and classification level. Further, the PSI will play a decisive role in the types of programs that will become available for the defendant while he is incarcerated.

Sentencing Hearing:
The sentencing hearing follows the presentence investigation.

While the defendant has his agenda, what influences the other stakeholders in the process? What drives the probation officer, the prosecutor, the victim’s, and the judge? By considering those different perspectives, the client becomes much more effective in crafting an appropriate allocution strategy.

Custody and Classification:
Not all prisons are equal. The Bureau of Prisons operates more than 100 different institutions that confine more than 200,000 people. Those institutions may be classified as one of six different security levels.

Learn how to prepare packages for the Designation and Sentence Computation Center (DSCC) at the Grand Prairie Office Complex in Texas. Those packages comply with the BOP Program Statement 5100.08.

Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP)
The Bureau of Prisons only offers one program through which an individual can work to advance the date that he walks out of prison. The Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) allows eligible candidates that complete the program to complete their prison sentence up to 12 months early. The challenge for many defendants, however, is that statements they made early on during the proceedings resulted in their ineligibility of being able to participate in the program. When halfway house is taken into consideration, completion of RDAP can mean walking out of prison up to two full years early. For that reason, we ensure our clients are well educated about what steps are necessary to qualify for the program.

Disciplinary Sanctions
If an individual is going into federal prison, we behoove him to learn everything there is to know about how administrators will enforce the disciplinary code. While incarcerated, the rules of engagement differ in remarkable ways from what an individual would expect if he has never been confined previously. Guards can issue disciplinary infractions that result in the loss of telephone privileges, correspondence, and visiting for months or years at a time. To avoid such complications, we ensure our clients understand the disciplinary code.

Security Levels
The Bureau of Prisons operates six different security levels and categorizes prisoners within four different custody levels.

We serve as a liaison between our clients and the BOP, enhancing the likelihood of their being able to influence where they serve their time. By teaching them about both custody and security levels, we provide our clients with insight they can use to qualify for programs that include community service and furloughs. Simultaneously, we teach them how to avoid pitfalls that may include time in the special housing unit (SHU).

Right Frame of Mind
A criminal prosecution can prove traumatizing for a defendant who doesn’t come from a criminal background or adhere to a criminal lifestyle. Such defendants frequently have few sources of information. The thought of being separated from family and community leads many into irrational thoughts that, left untreated, can have lasting consequences. Family relationships can suffer. Depression can set in. Justin’s personal experience provides a source of strength and inspiration for such people.

Prepare Prior to Sentencing/Surrender
The sentencing day can have enormous implications, including the possibility of being taken into custody.

Preparations in anticipation of the prison term can make an enormous difference. Statistics bear this out. When authorities choose to prosecute an individual, they set a course of action in place that can have lasting implications. Without proper preparation, many defendants sink into lasting depressions that can bring further troubles. Those who prepare with Justin’s guidance develop a plan for a deliberate journey inside.

First Day in Prison
If you’re wondering what you’ll experience on your first day of prison, Justin can help you as you work through this phase of his program. We offer this lesson in a narrative format. Through a fictional character, readers will experience what it feels like to leave family behind and surrender to federal prison  officers. It guides discussions that Justin leads. Those who participate and engage will have a better foundation. They will feel a sense of confidence because Justin helps the members of his group at White Collar Advice understand more about the journey ahead.

The first day in prison can be crucial. It is like walking into a fish tank. Everyone looks at the new comer and assesses him by the decisions he makes. The more an individual understands about the process, the more competently he can make decisions.

Reputation Management
What thoughts have you given to how the criminal justice system will influence the remainder of your life? This time will come to an end. If you’ve been charged, you will either be convicted or exonerated. Either way, a record will remain. A Google search of your name may lead to stories that disparage your character. The question is whether you’re taking measurable, deliberate steps to prepare for that reality.

Early Release
Do you know the different mechanisms available to federal prisoners who want to advance their release date? Would understanding more about how you can position yourself for early release be of value to you? If your answer is yes, we encourage you to spend more time reviewing the free information on our website and YouTube channel.

Halfway House
What are the pros and cons of living in a halfway house? How does a halfway house relate to home confinement? Who governs the level of liberty that an individual has while he is assigned to the halfway house? How will decisions you make prior to surrendering to prison influence your access to the halfway house? What types of behavior while assigned to the halfway house result in your being returned to prison? If you don’t know the answers to those questions, what value would you place in learning them?

Supervised Release
Nearly every defendant sentenced to prison by a federal judge has further challenges after completing an obligation to the Bureau of Prisons. Defendants transition from prison custody to the jurisdiction of a United States Parole Officer. Yet not every person who serves a term under Supervised Release experiences the same level of liberty.


Statistics show how easily an altercation with the criminal justice system can derail an individual’s life. Besides the indignity of an arrest, or notification that authorities have launched a criminal investigation, those who’ve been targeted by law enforcement must deal with ancillary consequences:

• How will this altercation influence my career and earning capacity?
• How will my life change if I’m sentenced to prison?
• How will a term of confinement influence my family members?

Clearly, anyone facing such challenges should consult with a competent defense attorney. A lawyer will provide guidance to help people through the criminal justice system.

Yet simply allowing a defense attorney to navigate the seemingly endless processes associated with the system may not be enough. Statistics show that problems with the law lead more than 50% of all criminal defendants into cycles of cascading difficulties. All too often, those problems come with ancillary consequences that extend far beyond the finding of guilt or sanctions that a judge may impose. Defense attorneys provide representation and counsel through those processes.

• In what ways will challenges you face with the criminal justice system influence your future?

• How will your responses to the challenges you face with the criminal justice system influence your family?

• What do you know about mechanisms that the federal prison system offers for early release in the event that you’re convicted?

• What impact will your current challenges have on your career when this is behind you?

• What do you envision as the best possible outcome from these circumstances?

• If you don’t know or understand the infrastructure and routines of prison, explain your process for creating a deliberate plan to prepare for success while inside.

• What steps are you taking to ensure you release differently than the 50% of people who have continuing struggles as a result of their experience through the criminal justice system?

• How would you rate your level of commitment to nurturing your network and repairing your reputation?

• What level of value would you find in learning from experts with documented success following their entanglement with the criminal justice system?

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