Wood and Nathanson, LLP concentrates on vigorously defending individuals and companies facing criminal investigations or prosecutions. Our firm provides aggressive advocacy in a variety of contexts.
We are frequently retained by clients who have been found guilty at trial and are seeking to overturn their convictions on direct appeal. Our initial task in such a case is to comb the record, including all pretrial motions, rulings, pretrial hearing transcripts, and the trial transcript, in order to identify legal errors which constitute grounds for relief. The strongest issues are explored in depth, briefed, and presented to the appellate court.
Recent developments in the law have made it essential in many cases to evaluate a client's potential grounds for relief on direct appeal in conjunction with investigating possible grounds for a motion for new trial. Unlike direct appeals, new trial motions are not limited to the historical record of what transpired in court. Rather, additional materials may be presented in the form of affidavits, documents, or live testimony. In some cases, it is in the client's interest to file and litigate a new trial motion before proceeding with the direct appeal. In other cases, the direct appeal should proceed first, with a potential new trial motion held in reserve. These tactical decisions may have a considerable impact upon the outcome of the case.
Apart from direct appeal, there is a panoply of possible avenues of judicial relief to be explored. They include motions for a new trial, motions for reduction of sentence, motions to vacate guilty pleas, and federal habeas petitions. Based upon the procedural history of the case and the substantive issues presented, we seek to identify all available options and formulate a plan to maximize the likelihood of success.
Where judicial relief has been foreclosed, executive clemency may be pursued.
Success at trial stems directly from the amount of time and effort spent on trial preparation. Depending on the complexity of the case, weeks or even months must be devoted to factual investigation, legal research, witness preparation, and a host of other tasks. In complex cases, a minimum of two lawyers will prepare and try the case together.
We owe it to them to devote all of our skills and energy to securing an acquittal.
We meet many of our clients shortly after they have been called or visited by agents or officers of a federal or state law enforcement or regulatory agency conducting an investigation. The involvement of experienced criminal defense counsel at the earliest possible moment is essential to protect the client's legal rights and ensure the best possible result.
Unfortunately, many companies and individuals wait too long before consulting with counsel. Once damaging admissions or false statements have been made, they cannot be taken back.
During the investigative stage, our first task is to conduct our own investigation in order to explore possible defenses, identify prospective defense witnesses, and assess our client's potential exposure. Since formal charges have not been brought, extracting information from the investigating agency may be difficult, if not impossible. In some cases, it may be prudent to approach the government aggressively in an effort to stave off indictment. In other instances, it is best to monitor the investigation to the extent possible without taking any overt steps. These critical strategic decisions are made only after careful discussion with the client about the advantages and risks of the various options.
Grand Jury Proceedings
In theory, grand jury proceedings are merely part of the investigative process. In reality, the presentation of evidence to a grand jury almost always means that the prosecuting authority has made a decision to indict. What remains to be determined is the scope of the charges and/or the names of the defendants.
This stage of the criminal process is particularly fraught with peril. Clients subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury may have constitutional rights to be asserted or lost forever. Subpoenas for documents are subject to an increasingly-complex body of judicial decisions. The proper response to a grand jury subpoena must be carefully analyzed in light of the clientâs circumstances and objectives.
In some instances, a client may be informed by the government that he, she, or it is a target or subject of a grand jury investigation. In other cases, the client has already figured that out. In either case, a thorough defense investigation must be carried out in an effort to assess the seriousness of the threat and potential defenses to a criminal charge. Depending upon the outcome of that investigation, it may be prudent in some cases to consider negotiating with the government in order to limit the clientâs downside risk. In other cases, we marshal our forces and prepare to fight.
In some instances, a client may be informed by the government that he, she, or it is a target or subject of a grand jury investigation. In other cases, the client has already figured that out. In either case, a thorough defense investigation must be carried out in an effort to assess the seriousness of the threat and potential defenses to a criminal charge.
Depending upon the outcome of that investigation, it may be prudent in some cases to consider negotiating with the government in order to limit the clientâs downside risk. In other cases, we marshal our forces and prepare to fight.
Many criminal cases are won (or lost) long before a jury is empaneled and the first prosecution witness testifies at trial. Motions to dismiss, motions to suppress, motions to sever counts or defendants, motions to exclude evidence, and a plethora of other potential substantive motions must be carefully considered.
Where they may aid the client's cause, the motions must be researched, briefed, and argued before the trial court and, in some circumstances, before an appellate court as well. A successful motion may end the case altogether or seriously hamper the prosecution's ability to present its case at trial.
Discovery motions are also an essential element of pretrial practice. Automatic discovery under the rules of criminal procedure is limited and grossly inadequate in many cases. The only way for us to obtain the factual tools we need to attack the prosecution's case at trial is through the creative and aggressive use of discovery motions.
Clients faced with overwhelming evidence may choose to plead guilty rather than go to trial. A trial may also result in a conviction, either of the offense charged or a lesser offense. In either case, sentencing is a critical part of the process in which effective lawyering can make a huge difference in the ultimate result.
We endeavor to marshal all available materials to present each client in the most sympathetic light possible, both to the prosecutor and to the sentencing judge. Expert reports, letters, and biographical documents are some of the tools employed. In federal court, criminal sentencing is impacted by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, a complex body of rules which must be mastered in order to achieve the best possible result.