In violence-related offenses, such as assault & battery and domestic violence, not only can the charging status be reduced (felony to a misdemeanor), but the possible jail penalties may be positively affected and significantly reduced by early enrollment in an anger management program or domestic violence counseling. Even though these programs may be ultimately required as a part of a probationary plea, the fact that the client has already initiated counseling may place him/her in a stronger negotiating position. This is especially true when the client and his/her spouse (or significant other) are desirous of reconciling. Couples counseling may also be appropriate, subject to certain conditions and circumstances, such as a criminal protective order or domestic violence restraining order.
For those charged with an offense such as child endangerment or cruelty to a child, and those who are charged with a sex-related offense, early attendance in parenting classes and sex offender treatment, respectively, can be especially effective tools. The reason is because those clients who take early action are able to develop a positive track record that reflects their sincerity to embrace counselling and their ability to change their behavior. Clients who are enrolled in specific, targeted, counselling programs assist the attorney in discussing sentencing alternatives to a felony conviction and penalties such as county jail or state prison.
Because of the sensitive nature of offenses involving children-victims and sex-related violations, they receive a great deal of review and attention by local prosecutors. Consequently, a well prepared counselling report from a licensed therapist or counselor, who specializes in these types of cases, can be very effective in placing the incident and defendant into context. In cases involving children victims, the report may consider the defendant’s lack of criminal history or prior incidents, the actual force used against the child, the behavior of the child, and the ability of the parent to make appropriate changes in their own behavior/discipline styles, etc. In sex-related offenses, the report will often include the counselor’s professional credentials and detail the defendant’s past, personal history (of suffering physical/mental abuse, growing up in a “broken-Home”, substance abuse, etc). Most importantly, the report must include the expert’s professional opinions relating to the defendant’s likelihood to reoffend in the future (“predator or an isolated event?”) and the defendant’s suitability/amenability to treatment. The treatment plan should be well-detailed in the report. If the report is critically written and provides a positive, initial assessment, the report will provide further helpful/mitigating information to the prosecutor, who may be willing to consider alternatives to a “jail or state prison offer”. Also, an early discussion with an experienced, local attorney can help guide a client to an appropriate counseling provider.