The government charged C., a young, trans-gender female from the New York area who had recently moved to the District, with assault with a deadly weapon and other felonies. The charges arose from a domestic violence incident (involving the client’s friend and another person in a romantic triangle) in an apartment in Northwest D.C.

The crucial issue was how to reduce the client’s unusually high criminal history score, which was at least five points and possibly as high as seven, depending on scoring rules for out-of-state convictions. This high score resulted mostly from felony convictions in Florida that came out of a domestic dispute context.

I used the report of a clinical psychologist, who had examined the client,  to successfully urge the judge to grant a downward departure under the Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines, on grounds of a mental health condition that reduced the client’s culpability. Under the downward departure, the client became eligible for a short-split sentence (a sentence of six months or less, and additional time that is suspended while the person is on probation). The judge imposed a sentence of six months in jail, plus 12 months suspended, and probation for two years.

The client had risked a sentence of seven years at a minimum had she gone to trial and lost. Given the extreme consequences of C’s high criminal history score, in this case negotiations with the prosecutor and attempting to get a downward departure from the judge at sentencing were the best options.