When it comes to white-collar crimes, a majority of those facing indictment think, "Hey, I've hired one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state. That's enough. I'll be cleared, right?" WRONG! The reality is there's no guarantee that even the best lawyer can single-handedly secure a reduced prison sentence. Truly effective mitigation comes by way of self-advocacy.

Before I go on, let me make it clear: All defendants will need legal representation. The nature of the justice system demands retaining those who understand its complexities. However, at White Collar Advice, personal experience has taught us that defendants need to look beyond themselves and think about the steps they can take to influence a better outcome. In our eyes, an effective mitigation plan is built on six pillars.

1. Understanding the weight of the presentence investigation report (PSR) and preparing for it

The PSR is more than a legal document that details your background in the white-collar offense. It is the embodiment of your personal narrative that will circulate the justice system and BOP and determine your sentencing, prison classification, eligibility into programs such as RDAP, and more.

It is imperative that your report accurately reflects your story and circumstances, and the only way to do so is by preparing for your pre-sentencing interview. This approach gives you the best shot at ensuring every decision maker in your case has an accurate picture of who you are as a person, as opposed to the criminal the prosecution would have them believe.

2. Learning how to make a favorable impression on the judge and self-advocacy during the sentencing hearing

A sentencing hearing follows every conviction, and while it is quite formulaic, there is still a critical opportunity in its midst: the allocution. This critical opportunity is your chance to speak directly to the court and accept responsibility, express remorse, and convey mitigating circumstances that justify leniency. It may seem like a case of "too little, too late for self-advocacy," but our interviews with federal judges, such as Judge Mark Bennett and Judge Stephen Bough, have revealed that the courts want to hear from defendant directly!

3. Considering how to influence the best possible sanction and preparing for it, whether it is prison or an alternative sentence

Our sentencing framework is governed by Title 18 United States Code Section 3553(a), a particularly broad set of guidelines that give judges substantial flexibility in how they fashion sanctions. Nothing is set in stone. There is always a chance for leniency.

Having said that, it is equally relevant to understand a crime was committed. The sooner you accept and come to terms with the consequences, the better equipped you'll be to navigate your sentence and prepare for the future.

4. Anticipating and preparing for the challenges that come with post-release supervision.

Yes, serving a prison sentence will feel like a temporary setback, but it is nothing more than a blip in the grand scheme of your life. The true test lies in what comes after your release. How will you manage society's changed perception of you post-incarceration? How will you make amends to the victims of your actions? How do you make sure you never find yourself back in a courtroom again?

Answers to questions like this help create a roadmap that doesn't just ease your transition after release. It also gives you a purpose to work towards while serving your sentence.

5. Preparing for the eventual request to terminate post-release supervision

After release, you still have to contend with post-sentencing supervision. Whether that involves fulfilling any obligations such as community service or attending mandatory counseling sessions, how you navigate this period serves as the foundation for successful reintegration into society.

By being proactive here, you can ensure you're diligently meeting the requirements and actively engaging in rehabilitation efforts. All this effort works in favor of your eventual request to terminate this supervision.

6. Preparing for a life meaning and relevance after federal supervision

Even after federal supervision ends, self-advocacy does not. It's vital to continue abiding by the law and making responsible choices. Stay vigilant and avoid any behaviors or actions that could jeopardize your progress. Any misstep can undo all the work you have put into rebuilding your life and establishing a positive trajectory.

Final Thoughts

Remember, a mitigation strategy is not a one-time initiative, singularly focused on securing a reduced prison sentence. It encompasses every step you take through the criminal justice system, from your indictment and incarceration to release – that is how you get the best possible outcome.

For more guidance and support, connect with me at White Collar Advice. Let's do the work and build the most effective self-advocacy plan for you.


P.S. Have any questions or concerns? Call me at 704-654-1604!

author avatar
Alec Burlakoff