By

Chris Fialko

A couple of years ago, I walked into a Superior Courtroom in North Carolina that I hadn’t been in for a long while.  Sitting on the bench was a judge that I hadn’t seen in an even longer time.  This judge and I had been on opposite sides and fought cases against one another when he was just a prosecutor in the 1990s.

Upon spying me, the judge shouted, “Well, how the hell are you Counselor Fialko?” Caught off guard in the full courtroom, and without thinking, I replied, “Your honor, I’m just trying to defend the Constitution one client at a time.” He laughed, and said, “I see how that could be a full-time job.”

Since that day, I’ve been using that catch-phrase often, whenever I meet someone new or see someone I haven’t seen in a while. While I say it mostly to be funny and break the ice, it also serves as a barometer: the people who laugh and appreciate the comment tend to understand the crucial role of a criminal defense lawyer in our society. On the other hand, if my quip is greeted with frowning silence, I become immediately wary.

Thanks for reading.
-Chris Fialko

 

Chris Fialko was hired to try to limit the damage in a corporate bribery scheme. The client had already pled guilty in federal court and hired Chris Fialko to help at the sentencing hearing. Fialko traveled to Kansas to meet with the client’s wife, children, brothers, and sisters in order to learn more about his life. Fialko wrote a sentencing memorandum that also focused on his client’s lesser role, and submitted that the client profited far less than the co-defendants. Although he was facing 57-71 months under Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the judge gave a downward variance and sentenced the client to 41 months instead.

Around 15 years ago I decided to adopt the strategy of over-informing my clients.  It seems like a simple and obvious idea, but it’s not.  There are drawbacks.

First, having a detailed discussion of sentencing guideline punishments can make the client worry that his lawyer assumes he’s guilty.  I don’t.  But I’ve learned, especially in federal cases, that the client really needs to understand what she’s up against.

Second, the client may become discouraged.  I give my client what I call …

The Roller-Coaster speech:  Defending a criminal investigation will be a long and scary ride.  Some days will have good developments, and we’ll feel at the top of the ride, and some days bad things will occur, and we’ll feel down at the bottom.  It’s important to try like hell to keep an even keel.

Defending a criminal case requires making many decisions along the way, and the client and I need to keep a level head at each decision point.

I’ve found the strategy of keeping my client very informed of the law, the process, and the facts helps us reach the best result.

Chris Fialko of Charlotte, NC defended a UNC-Charlotte student accused of sexual misconduct. He thoroughly investigated the case and fought for his client at a two-day long-contested hearing. The school’s hearing officer found the client not responsible for all charges.

The Fialko team defended a young man who was charged with felony obtaining property by false pretenses. The charges were issued after the client found a gig-work job for an online re-shipping electronics company.

We subpoenaed in-store video and online sales records that helped us show our client had no criminal intent. In addition, using computer forensics and a private investigator, we proved that our client had no knowledge that the items had been bought with stolen credit cards. The prosecutor agreed and dismissed the charges.

 

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