Have you been arrested? If so, you have to quickly mobilize your defense to ensure that you take advantage of all of the rights and privileges that you are entitled to as a criminal defendant. Remember, the prosecution has the burden of establishing that you broke the law “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The entry into the case of an attorney on your behalf as early as possible is the best thing you can do to help yourself.
You are probably upset, confused and maybe angry at the way you were treated. You may also be innocent! Being treated like a criminal is not pleasant and you will soon discover that, to the District Attorney’s office, you are just another case to prosecute. The process is impersonal and cares little about your many good qualities or that you may be an outstanding citizen. It is the defense attorney’s mission to either win your case outright or at least get the prosecutor to consider the unique facts of your case. Remember, the prosecution wants a conviction … period!
There are many ways that a criminal prosecution can begin. Typically, an officer sees what he believes is a criminal act or a crime was reported to the police and an investigation has lead to you. You have rights as the target of a criminal investigation. You have the right to be represented by an attorney and have that attorney present during questioning. Usually, the police do not tell you that. It is only upon your arrest that you first learn of several rights, including the right to an attorney and to not cooperate with questioning by the police.
For less serious offenses, you will most likely be released without bail and given an appearance ticket to come to court in two weeks or so. But, for more serious matters, you could be held in custody until you see a judge who may or may not set bail.
This is when you typically hire an attorney to defend you. The lawyer will review the facts of your case and any papers that you were given, determine whether there are any obvious defenses that might apply and arrange to appear with you at your upcoming arraignment.
At the arraignment you will be given the opportunity to hear the charges against you and a summary of your rights. Your lawyer will formally notify the court of his retention to represent you and you will in most cases enter a plea, almost always “not guilty”. Sometimes, in more serious crimes, there is already an indictment. Other times an indictment against you has not yet been obtained. The judge may then release you in your own recognizance or set bail.
From this point your case may take any number of different twists and turns. There may be adjournments, motions, hearings or other proceedings. During this time your lawyer will be taking every opportunity to discover and attack the prosecution’s case, poking as many holes in it as possible to set the stage for a successful outcome at trial. A secondary aim is to force the prosecution to concede that its case against you has weaknesses or maybe no merit at all.
At some point there are almost always plea bargaining negotiations and an offer made to you. Typically, the plea offered is based on a cookie cutter formula used by the District Attorney for that County and the local prosecutor or assistant district attorney assigned cannot offer you a different outcome even if he or she thinks that you deserve one. Your lawyer’s job is to get the prosecutor to pay you some special attention. Your lawyer must show that your case is so unique that the local prosecutor assigned will seek the permission of a supervisor to offer you a more lenient outcome.
If you choose to reject the plea offers made to you and once pretrial proceedings are concluded, then your case will be scheduled for trial. This may happen before a jury, or in some cases before a judge sitting without a jury. At the trial your lawyer should test every aspect of the prosecution’s case. This is done primarily through cross examination. Your lawyer may also choose to produce witnesses in your defense and you, in consultation with your attorney, may elect to testify on your own behalf.
A trial is an arduous experience, but it is the only way to be found not guilty if the charges against you are not just dropped altogether. If you go to trial, then all prior plea offers made to you are off the table and, if found guilty, you are at the mercy of the judge at the time of sentencing. An investigation will be conducted by the Probation Department and it will draft a report and make recommendations about your sentencing to the judge. The judge, however, does not have to accept Probation’s recommendation and some judges are harsher than others.
Sentences may vary considerably. There are fines and surcharges, the conditional discharge, which basically means just be good for a year, supervision by probation and incarceration with or without probation thereafter. There are also non-criminal consequences, such as Department of Motor Vehicle surcharges, civil liability for any injuries or damages you may have caused and forfeitures.
The main thing you need to do is get that lawyer, and get one fast! My office is experienced in criminal matters and can aggressively advocate on your behalf throughout the process. I can review the facts to determine whether or not the whole case against you should be thrown out. If not, maybe I can get the judge to exclude some of the evidence or statements against you and severely weaken the prosecution’s case. Rest assured that I will aggressively represent you and seek the best result possible under the circumstances presented in your case. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss your situation with you. Please call for a free telephone consultation.
Whatever you do, don’t make the following mistakes:
- Going to court without a lawyer (If you must, then ask the judge for time to get a lawyer).
- Making incriminating statements.
- Failing to show up.
- Failing to take very seriously the charges against you. They may follow you for the rest of your life!
Take advantage of my free consultation. Call right away!