How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask Joseph Your Own Question

Joseph
Joseph, Criminal Defense Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 7279
Experience:  I have 15 years experience in criminal litigation including several years as a felony prosecutor
Type Your Criminal Law Question Here...
Joseph is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

Hello, My sister, Paula Spiegel was sentenced to 30 yea

Customer Question

Hello,      My sister, Paula Spiegel was sentenced to 30 years in the Lowell Correctional Institution for a first offense drug charge. Her charges were Traff Amph/14-U28 gr (30 years), Possession Methamphetamine (5 years) and Traff Amph/14-U28 gr (30 yrs) with no possibility of parole for 24 years.      She has been in prison since November, 2005. She was represented in court by a public defender that didn't seem to care one way or another which way the case went and Judge Figarrota made it clear that he was going to make an example of her. I looked him up online and the news articles proclaim him to be "hard on drugs". I agree that there needs to be punishment when you break the law, but this sentence goes beyond anything I could find for a sentence for charges like hers. It is so cruel.   She has always worked and has four children. Her life fell apart when she became caregiver for her terminally ill father. After he died, she became very depressed and fell apart. That is when she became involved with drugs.        Why wouldn't she have been offered some sort of rehab instead of such a harsh sentence? Is it lawful that a judge can do this? What can I do to help her? I am so worried about her. We are not a family of means, so we are rather strapped as far as our options. Can you please lead me in the appropriate direction? Thank you so much, Gloria Cain
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.

Joseph :

Good evening! I'm a Florida criminal defense attorney practicing in both state and federal courts. Was this a federal offense?

Customer :

I don't think so. She was charged in Florida and sentenced in Fl

Joseph :

I understand that, but federal cases are prosecuted in Florida as well. Based on the charges you listed, I had the impression that they were federal in nature. Do you know what courthouse she was sentenced in? Or do you have statute numbers?

Customer :

She was in Hillsborough county criminal circuit court

Joseph :

Got it. Give me a few minutes and I'll respond in detail.

Customer :

thank you

Joseph :

A couple things.....It doesn't help that this occurred so long ago. The trafficking charges are each first degree felony offense, punishable by up to 30 years. With this in mind, the sentence is completely legal. Was she sentenced in 2005?

Customer :

yes

Joseph :

Ok, that certainly doesn't help. As she was sentenced so long ago, most of her rights have passed her by. She could have filed an appeal, but only within 30 days of sentencing. She could have filed a motion arguing ineffective assistance of counsel, but only within 2 years of sentencing.

Joseph :

Florida no longer has parole, so that isn't an option either.

Customer :

it may be legal, but is it ethical?

Joseph :

Yes, so long as the judge sentenced her to no more than the statutory maximum, there is nothing unethical about what he did.

Joseph :

While he sentenced her to the maximum, it was lawful and ethical.

Customer :

she has not seen or heard from the public defender since her sentencing, how is a person unfamiliar with the law know the deadlines?

Customer :

okay, so where do we stand now, is there any way that we can try to get her sentence reduced?

Joseph :

Well, the attorney should have discussed this with her. Additionally, Florida law requires the judge to detail some of it at sentencing.

Joseph :

Unfortunately, probably not. Give me a moment...

Joseph :

She could file a motion to mitigate sentence. Unfortunately, such a motion is supposed to be filed within 60 days of sentencing, that passed her by a long time ago. If she wanted, she could try, but she should do so realizing that she would likely lose based simply on the timing requirement.

Customer :

Can this deadline be bypassed if the lawyer representing her did not appeal?

Customer :

Would a defense attorney automatically appeal in a case such as this?

Customer :

Relating to such a long sentence

Joseph :

Extremely unlikely. Part of the reason I say this is because I can all but guarantee that the judge informed your sister of her rights to appeal.

Joseph :

And no, an attorney would not automatically appeal. While the sentence was long, and perhaps unduly harsh, there was nothing illegal about it. If it isn't illegal, there isn't a legitimate basis to an appeal.

Customer :

How do you start a motion to mitigate a sentence?

Joseph :

It's a rather simple motion, much like any other. It would simply state what you've detailed here, that she was sentenced, the sentence was rather harsh (including maximum penalties) and, hopefully, she has been a model inmate while incarcerated.

Joseph :

Having said that, I can say with a high level of confidence that she will lose as the motion would be extremely late.

Customer :

yes, she has gone through the faith based program and works in the prison clothing factory. She hasn't been in any trouble while in prison

Joseph :

As I suggested earlier, she can TRY, but she will most likely not prevail

Customer :

Even with prison overcrowding, not to mention the financial aspects of incarceration and the fact that her children are without a mother, nothing would likely sway them?

Customer :

her crime was not one of violence, mostly harm to herself

Joseph :

I don't mean to sound cruel, but the court system doesn't really care about that. Additionally, Florida has actually reduced the overcrowding in most facilities over the past few years.

Joseph :

Any reason she has done nothing for 6 years?

Customer :

Are you beginning to sense desperation on my end? :)

Joseph :

Trust me, I get that a lot. Unfortunately, she just doesn't have any viable options.

Customer :

Well, we (her family) were very disappointed with her at first and thought she should pay her dues, but the reality of thirty years has began to sink in with us.

Joseph :

While I can appreciate that, it carries no weight in court...as I'm sure you know

Customer :

I guess we just thought that things would just resolve somehow

Customer :

I wasn't speaking to her when she was sentenced and have just in the last year began to correspond with her. Her pleas to help are tearing me up inside.

Joseph :

While our criminal laws have been getting more harsh, not less harsh, over the years, that could change. She, and/or you, could keep an eye on the laws, maybe they will change.

Joseph :

For example, a defendant currently has to do 85% of his sentence, that may change.

Joseph :

We eliminated parole, but that might change as well

Customer :

Do you think that there is ANY chance that the sentence might be reduced or is the judge allowed to have a bad day at the expense of her life? Don't misunderstand, I can only imagine the frustration that someone in this field must experience.

Joseph :

Do you know if it's the same judge? Or has it changed?

Customer :

The same judge

Customer :

Figarrota?

Joseph :

I hate to be negative, but (and this is purely speculative) I would suggest that the odds of success are around 1%.

Joseph :

The odds of the same judge changing his mind.......not good.

Customer :

Can you ask for a change of judges?

Customer :

That a judge for whatever reason does not like the defendant

Joseph :

Not normally. Judges rotate in and out from time to time, the lose elections or the get recused. As to a recusal, that would be based on a showing of bias against your sister specifically, nothing you have stated arises to that level.

Customer :

have you ever experienced unfair judges personally?

Joseph :

Yes, many times.

Customer :

How can it be proven that a judge has a bias? Wouldn't the length of sentence be proof enough? Remarks in court, would they be stricken from the record? Can it be that a judge can have a bias against drug offenders? Would/could that be considered?

Joseph :

It can't be against "drug offenders", it has to be against HER specifically

Joseph :

and you're right, proving bias is all but impossible

Joseph :

especially since the motion would be decided by the same judge

Customer :

Her "score" was 44.25, does that mean anything to you?

Joseph :

Yes, anything over 44 is mandatory prison

Customer :

so she just barely even made prison time?

Joseph :

Based on what you're saying, yes. However, I wonder if that's accurate, with two trafficking charges, I would expect it to be higher

Customer :

I was on the Lowell correctional Institution website and looking at different inmates, their crimes, sentences, and she was the least threat to society!

Customer :

14-U28gr of amphetamin

Joseph :

We've been chatting for neary an hour and I'm about to take my wife out for dinner. I can continue this conversation later if you like.

Customer :

e

Customer :

ok same here. thanks so much for your time.

Joseph :

I'll be back online in a few hours, you can return if you like.

Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.
What Happens Now?

Your chat has ended, but you can still work with your Expert to get an answer to your question if you have not yet received one.

Come back to this page at any time to see additional information from your Expert.  You will also receive an email when your question is updated.  If you want to send a message to your Expert, use the box below.

If you have already received a satisfactory answer to your question, click the Accept button above.  Experts are credited for each accepted answer they provide.
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.

I am going off-line for the evening. Please feel free to respond, if necessary, and know that I will be back on-line tomorrow.

 

Thank you for your patience.

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • Your Expert advise has provided insight on a difficult situation. Thank you so much for the prompt response. I will definitely recommend your website to my friends. Norma Pensacola, FL
< Last | Next >
  • Your Expert advise has provided insight on a difficult situation. Thank you so much for the prompt response. I will definitely recommend your website to my friends. Norma Pensacola, FL
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
  • My Expert was fast and seemed to have the answer to my taser question at the tips of her fingers. Communication was excellent. I left feeling confident in her answer. Eric Redwood City, CA
  • I am very pleased with JustAnswer as a place to go for divorce or criminal law knowledge and insight. Michael Wichita, KS
  • PaulMJD helped me with questions I had regarding an urgent legal matter. His answers were excellent. Three H. Houston, TX
  • Anne was extremely helpful. Her information put me in the right direction for action that kept me legal, possible saving me a ton of money in the future. Thank you again, Anne!! Elaine Atlanta, GA
  • It worked great. I had the facts and I presented them to my ex-landlord and she folded and returned my deposit. The 50 bucks I spent with you solved my problem. Tony Apopka, FL
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Fran L.

    JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor

    Satisfied Customers:

    8061
    18 yrs of NYC public defense. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RE/retiredlawyer/2012-6-6_19326_franL.64x64.jpg Fran L.'s Avatar

    Fran L.

    JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor

    Satisfied Customers:

    8061
    18 yrs of NYC public defense. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RA/ratioscripta/2012-6-13_2955_foto3.64x64.jpg Ely's Avatar

    Ely

    Counselor at Law

    Satisfied Customers:

    2079
    Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/NA/nathanmoorelaw/2011-5-31_21375_headshotbig.64x64.jpg Nate's Avatar

    Nate

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    1625
    Over 10 years of criminal defense practice.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/LA/LawTalk/2012-6-6_17379_LawTalk.64x64.JPG LawTalk's Avatar

    LawTalk

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    1434
    30 years legal experience
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PH/philip.simmons/2012-6-7_161915_BIGPhilipSimmons.64x64.jpg P. Simmons's Avatar

    P. Simmons

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    1418
    16 yrs. of experience including criminal law.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/marshadjd/2009-6-1_194320_marshajd.jpg Marsha411JD's Avatar

    Marsha411JD

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    1380
    Licensed attorney with 27 yrs. exp. in criminal law
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RO/RobertJDFL/2012-6-6_175352_7538220120606.64x64.jpg RobertJDFL's Avatar

    RobertJDFL

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    1300
    Experienced in multiple areas of the law.