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Criminal Mischief during depression/panic episode.

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Help ?
I suffer from and have been diagnosed with depression/panic disorder. I was unmedicated until a few weeks ago as I was changing medications. Before the new med could take effect I had a depressive/panic episode. While this occurred, I got badly frightened when a man honked his horn at me and I keyscratched his car out of an anger reflex. I do not have a very good memory of the episode, but I offered to pay for damages immediately. The victim refused, had me arrested, and is pressing felony charges against me. I do not feel I was in full posession of my faculties at the time, but I still am quite willing to pay for damages. I feel that the victim is being vindictive for pressing charges...what can I do ? I have no criminal record, I am a professional software developer, I have a graduate degree, and have no history of violence/Police trouble of any kind. I feel bad for this man, but I don't feel that I deserve to be punished as a criminal. What would be a good course of action for me to take ?



I'd like to relay my experience in the hope you may find it helpful. First, I am not an attorney so do consult one before taking any steps (you should have an attorney anyway for this problem,even if the charges turn out to be minor). I was charged with aggravated harassment (in NYC, a misdemeanor) in March 1999. In April 1999 I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder (I also have a family history of this disorder). I had also briefly seen a social worker (and a counselor at work) in December 1998. I brought with me to all of the court proceedings documentation of my psychological and psychiatric treatment. After monthly appearances, finally in August 1999 I was allowed to plea to a violation (not the original misdemeanor charge) and sentenced to what is called a "conditional discharge" (essentially the record is sealed in August 2000 providing I don't get into any trouble and do not violate an order of protection issued for the complainant). I had to show up monthly (last date was a few days ago, I don't have to go to court anymore) with proof that I was continuing treatment.

I don't know how much weight the prosecutor and judge put into my medical condition, I am sure there was at least some consideration in the plea deal arranged and the subsequent sentence (very light,just a $45 fine,no jail and no community service). The conditions included my continuing counseling (technically until August 2000 ). Of course I probably need to be on medication the rest of my life and I will likely be in counseling (voluntarily) for at least the next two years.

Fortunately there is an increasing awareness in the courts of mental illnesses. If you can provide documentation (and even better, an in-person testimony from your doctor) in all likelihood the judge will take that into consideration,even if the prosecution insists on pressing the most serious charge. Chances are good, especially since this is your first offense, that it will be dismissed or C.D.'d.

Good luck with everything, just take it a step at a time. The process can drag on a while,just try to be patient. It will all work out fine in the end.


Senior Member
You got Excellent advice.

You'll need a good lawyer to make a professional presentation to the prosecutor, bringing into play your excellent character, the medical and psychological condition, the absence of any criminal or other record, your remorse, offer to pay restitution, etc. as this is truly a matter in which the prosecutor wields almost absolute discretion.

This is intended as general information only and NOT LEGAL ADVICE. You are not my client, and I have no obligation of any kind to you. To retain a lawyer, go to http://AttorneyPages.com

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