The Sentencing Memo: When the Lawyer Should go the Extra Mile

One aspect of criminal defense that is often forgotten about is the value of a strong sentencing memorandum. The sentencing memo gives the attorney an opportunity to have one last chance to display to the court why their client should be given the best possible sentence and sadly, it is a tool that is frequently overlooked. iStock_000013714975_Double-2-300x217

In Michigan, the sentencing memo carries more weight than in most other states. In the criminal defense sect of our state, the memo can allow the attorney to speak from the heart and give the court something to consider aside from the facts of the case. To discuss this issue in greater detail, we spoke to leaders in the criminal defense community to gain further insight into the sentencing memo.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has built a law firm that has the reputation as the strongest criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. When asked about the sentencing memo, Grabel stated, “Far too often the attorney is too lazy to write the memo. To generate a strong memo, there are a number of aspects that have to be addressed such as the defendant’s mental health history and their education. Sometimes, the littlest fact about the history of the defendant could be the thing that keeps them out of incarceration and it is our job to present the client to the court in the best possible light.”

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When asked about the sentencing memo, McManus said, “In a place like Washtenaw County I feel writing a memo a must for any felony charge and even some misdemeanors. There are times when it will have no effect on the overall outcome but there are times when it will make all of the difference in the world. This is especially needed when a plea deal is made that goes below the scoring guidelines.”

Ravi Gurumurthy is the founder of Michigan Law North and a successful criminal defense attorney in Cadillac, Michigan. When asked about the memo, Gurumurthy was quoted as saying, “The memo is really about the lawyer going the extra mile. This is not something that even needs to be a billable hour. The memo shows our client that we explored every option.”

Jeremy Tatum runs a law firm in Saginaw, Michigan and prior to his career in law he had a successful career in social work and is a professional writer. Tatum provided commentary when he said, “The sentencing memo allows the journalist to come out of the attorney. In our profession, writing is an essential aspect and a strong memo can display that the decision in “People v. Lockridge” can be used as a beneficial mechanism for the criminal defendant.”

Grabel went on to add, “When the Lockridge decision was rendered, it gave a tremendous amount of power to those sitting on our bench. The judge could use the decision to either increase or decrease the guidelines. A strong sentencing memo will provide ammunition for the court to provide some relief for our clients. It should not be an option for the criminal defense lawyer, it should be a requirement.”

At the end of the day, perhaps the most powerful aspect of the sentencing memo is that the writing will show the court that the attorney is connected to their client and not just picking up a paycheck. A strong memo can equate to freedom for those facing the most difficult hurdle of their life and it is something we should always consider doing when faced with a client in need.

William Amadeo is a partner at Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates and “Of Counsel” for Timothy McIlwain in New Jersey. Amadeo is licensed in Michigan and New Jersey and has also practiced law in California and the federal court system. In addition to his legal duties, Amadeo is the co-host of the upcoming podcast “The Jail Visit” with Jeremy Tatum and is a staff writer for “The Chronicle News” and other media outlets. Amadeo can be reached at Williamamadeo@Grabellaw.com.