Our firm recently handled a case involving a medical doctor who was charged with threats of violence and second-degree assault. In this article, we talk all about the case and how we avoided a conviction. Hopefully, this gives others an idea of how to work around a charge and avoid a conviction for similar cases.
The Facts of the Case
The case begins after an incident one summer in Minnesota after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The client and his children were at home where they had a yard that was at least 75 yards in size. The children were playing in the yard, making noise that angered the neighbors.
The neighbors called 911 to complain about the noise while their daughter, who was around 17 years old, started going over to the yard and swearing at our client. The latter started swearing back, which angered the 17-year-old’s father. This prompted him to shout and swear at our client and his kids, perhaps even threatening them by saying “I’ll kill you.”
After this encounter, our client and his kids ran to the house and locked the door. But this didn’t stop the neighbor from continuing his yelling to the point that he even started to unlatch the fence gate at our client’s house.
This scared our client, so he went to grab his shotgun from the closet. Now, things get a little bit complicated. The neighbor and his daughter alleged that our client pointed the gun at them. On the other hand, our client told the 911 operator that he did brandish the shotgun but had not actually pointed it at the neighbors or threatened them with it. Rather, he took the shotgun and pointed it at the ground, out of fear and in hopes of dissuading them from breaking into the house.
The main issue here is whether or not our client had actually pointed the gun at the neighbors. While we believed that he didn’t and that the act of brandishing the gun was self-defense, it was a matter of who the jury was going to believe.
In our opinion, this case would have been very interesting to take to trial. But the decision to wasn’t as simple as that because the client was a medical doctor. If a doctor is found to have any assaultive conduct, they risk losing their medical license. So if the case was brought to trial, our client’s job and livelihood would be at stake.
Prior to us handling the case, the client worked with a different lawyer when he was charged with threats of violence. In their plea negotiations, our client was told that if didn’t plead guilty to threats of violence, they were going to amend the charges to second-degree assault with a firearm. The latter, in case of a conviction, carries a three-year mandatory minimum prison sentence in Minnesota.
How We Helped the Client
Luckily, the client asked us to take over the case after his brother, who has a public defender, referred him to us. When we accepted the case, we immediately went out to the scene to get a better idea of the house’s layout and appreciate what it feels like to be there. There are things a site visit can reveal that reviewing evidence on paper cannot, which helps us do a better job for the client.
Ultimately, we determined that the client was not going to be pleading guilty to the threats of violence charge. This is because we knew he had a viable claim for self-defense or defense of others. Our firm filed that notice with the intention of going to trial.
But lo and behold, we ended up negotiating with the prosecution to the point where they give our client an offer to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor or reckless handling of a firearm under Minnesota statute 609.66, subdivision 1A1.
Compared to the initial offer that would lead to a second-degree assault charge, which was a felony, this was more favorable because it did not require our client to do any jail time and it would allow him to keep his medical license.
While we were prepared to go to trial, our client felt more confident accepting the offer. He didn’t want to risk the jury deciding against him, so he was happy with the offer and took it.
As lawyers, we are in no place to pressure our clients into pleading guilty, accepting an offer, or going to trial. While we can give them our advice, it is ultimately their decision that we should honor. We agreed that the offer was best for the client, so we were a hundred percent behind him in accepting the offer.
This eventually led to his threats of violence and second-degree assault charges being dismissed, allowing him to keep his record clean, avoid prison time, and most importantly, save his career and livelihood.
How Having an Experienced Lawyer Can Get You a Better Deal in Criminal Cases
Different lawyers will have different opinions about a case. But one with experience trying criminal cases will, more often than not, be able to come up with a solution that is favorable for their clients. This is because they put in the work — going through the scene, sending an investigator to interview witnesses, and developing a strong defense.
Not only that, but having an experienced lawyer can also be intimidating to the prosecution. Because they are aware of the lawyer’s track record in winning trials and convincing juries, they are likely going to make a good offer on the case.