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Paul D. Cramm

What Is the Best Defense Strategy in Cases With Potential For Serious Punishment?


What Is the Best Defense Strategy in Cases With Potential For Serious Punishment?

Interviewer: Have you handled cases where people are facing 15, 20, 30 or more years?

Paul: Yes, absolutely. For the majority of federal narcotics conspiracy cases, the mandatory minimum sentence is 10 years. If a client has prior narcotics convictions, the mandatory minimum is 20. Even if the prior narcotics felony conviction is a state conviction from eight years ago, that will result in the client facing mandatory minimum 20 years on a narcotics distribution conspiracy at the federal level. So these folks are facing a lot of time.

Interviewer: The stakes are very high.

Paul: The stakes are extremely high, yes.

Interviewer: Do you feel that because you handle these federal cases, you are therefore better at handling state cases?  Does it prepare you more or better?

Paul: If you take the work very seriously, which I do, I think yes. The type of work you need to do at the federal level is extremely demanding.

At the state level I see a lot of drug charges that arise from a noise disturbance, a traffic infraction or maybe a domestic violence call. The local police officer who is responding to a noise complaint, or pulling someone over for failing to signal a lane change, is not anticipating the possibility or likelihood of discovering narcotics.

There are more opportunities in those types of cases that just sort of arise from unrelated law enforcement contact.  You see a lot more opportunities to challenge the admissibility of evidence. You do not see as much of that at the federal level.

I am able to file more motions, challenge more evidence and get more favorable results at the state level. This is because we are not dealing with a nine, 12, 15 or 18-month ongoing investigation with six three-ring binders full of evidence against my client.

Interviewer: If I know you have handled serious cases where people are facing the rest of their life in prison, then that would make me think, “Wow. If this attorney can handle that, he can certainly handle my case if it is a low-level domestic violence, DUI or whatever.” Is that a reasonable assumption?

Paul: I think that is a reasonable assumption. Handling complex cases at the federal level is very demanding. I can look back at the time I spent on these cases. They call this the practice of law for a reason.  I am certainly better at it now than I was five years ago, and I was better at it five years ago than I was nine or 10 years ago.

The more time you spend and the more you are exposed to these extremely demanding cases, the better you are at identifying issues in comparatively less serious cases.  I think that is correct.

Interviewer: What is the most serious case you ever handled?  Have you ever handled death penalty cases?

Paul: Yes, I have. I had one death penalty case.  I have had three or four off grid cases, but one capital case wherein the state actually did file a request for death.

I got to work with two very good lawyers in that case.  There were three of us on the case, and we worked that death penalty case as a team.  From start to finish, that was a very tiring year-and-a-half.

Interviewer: Besides the death penalty case, what is the highest level case that you dealt with?

Paul: It was another homicide case, where the case was charged off grid at the state level.  The state could have filed a request for death but did not.  So, it was a life in prison without parole case.

Also, there are a couple sex offenses that we handled under Jessica’s Law. Those cases are off grid, meaning they qualify for the mandatory minimum 25 to life.

I had one case where an individual had a very unfortunate prior sex offense. It occurred when he was very young in his 20s and had a teenage girlfriend.  That counted as a prior sex offense.  Then, when he was in his 40s, his girlfriend’s daughter made an unsubstantiated allegation against him.  Therefore, he was facing 40 years to life in prison.

That was one in which the jury agreed with my view of the case. That gentleman was acquitted after 90 minutes of deliberation on two counts.  But that was a very long 90 minutes.  So that was a very stressful case.

“The Importance of Aggressive Federal Criminal Defense”.

Interviewer: In order to handle these federal cases, did you need special licensing or classes?  How do you work on federal crimes?

Paul: You do not need a different license for federal offenses. It is just presumed that you will follow ethical requirements, that you are competent to practice in the area, and that you seek out counsel and advice from other lawyers if you face situations you are unfamiliar with.

At the federal level, when the judges see you come through the door, they are counting on you knowing what you are getting into and being able to provide zealous representation.

As far as the death penalty cases, they do require that you have separate capital qualification and training for those cases.

Interviewer: An attorney would not want to handle federal cases on a lark.  It seems like something they would only do if they are really serious about their practice.  Otherwise, why would they even bother with these kinds of cases?

Paul: I think, for the most part, that is absolutely correct.  I have seen some attorneys, although very few, who you can tell in your conversations with them before and after hearings, that they are unprepared to represent people in federal court.

You can tell they have not reviewed the discovery in the case. You can tell they are there biding their time, and that they will probably overstake and oversell the benefits of the very first or perhaps only plea offer that the U.S. Attorney makes.

So, unfortunately, there are some people practicing at the federal level who I do not think take the obligation or responsibility nearly as seriously as they should.  But, that is absolutely the exception.  That is not the rule.  The vast majority of lawyers who I know and see regularly in federal court are very dedicated advocates; and just great lawyers and great people.


Call today for free consultation to discuss your case: (913) 322-3265.  I represent clients facing serious federal criminal charges in the District of Kansas and the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City and in the District of Nebraska.  As your defense lawyer, I work harder to ensure that we achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

Paul D. Cramm

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(913) 322-3265

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