Here are the questions I hear most often, and the answers you need to know.
Like many people under investigation or charged with a crime, you may not be sure what steps to take next. Here’s what you need to know, based on the questions I’ve received during my years of experience as a criminal defense attorney. If you’d like more information after reading this, please schedule a free case evaluation so we evaluate the specifics of your case and I’ll advise you on your legal options.
Why should I hire a private defense attorney when I already qualify for the public defender?
While there are many attorneys in the public defender’s office who are very skilled in practicing criminal law, the advantage of hiring a private defense attorney is the simple fact that a private attorney does not have to juggle your case with hundreds of other cases and can spend the quality time necessary to fully develop any possible legal defenses and fully protect your rights. A private criminal defense attorney will also spend more time with you working on your case and explaining what is going on over the course of the criminal process.
How soon can I speak to an attorney?
When you’ve been charged with a crime, it’s a confusing and frightening time. The best thing you can do right now is talk to someone who can explain the charges you’re facing and the options that make sense for your case. I make it my number-one priority to make sure you’re well-informed on your case and have the answers you need, from the first call you make. Get in touch now to start getting answers—you’ll hear back in 2 hours or less.
How much will my defense cost?
I know that getting the best defense possible is your number-one priority, so I’m always willing to work with clients to find the solution that works for you.
Keep in mind that you should always be able to have an initial discussion with an attorney about your case for free. This is so you can get a sense of how knowledgeable the attorney is and how much attention he or she can devote to your case. In your consultation, the lawyer should listen to the facts of your case, discuss with you what your options are, and be up-front about his or her fees. Ask yourself: Was it easy to get in touch with the attorney? Is he or she taking the time to really understand the details of my case? Now that I’ve talked to him, do I understand my charges and have a good sense of my options? Am I clear on what the costs will be?
The answers to those questions will tell you whether the attorney is right for your case.
Get in touch today to talk through your case with me, learn your options and find out about my affordable solutions.
What are the differences between misdemeanor and felony charges?
The basic difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is the maximum amount of jail/prison time you’d face if convicted. Misdemeanors are punishable by 1 year or less in the county jail. Felonies are punishable by 1 year or more in county jail or prison.
Keep in mind, though, that some crimes can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, which is why there is often confusion about which crimes are classified as which. These crimes are called “wobblers” and are charged as felonies or misdemeanors at the discretion of the prosecutor. A DUI is an example of a wobbler. To understand the difference, take a look at a recent case in Santee that illustrates when a DUI becomes a felony.
In the case of wobblers, it’s especially important to have an experienced criminal attorney on your side to ensure that the case is brought against you as a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.
What are the benefits of hiring an attorney to handle the criminal case against me?
There are a number of advantages to having a criminal defense attorney on your side. Even if you’re not sure who you should choose or whether you should hire an attorney at all, always get at least one initial consultation with an attorney. This is a free way to understand the charges against you, the potential defenses available to you, what plea bargains might be offered and what will happen if you get convicted.
Here are some of the most common benefits of hiring a criminal defense attorney:
- Get your charges dismissed: If charges have not yet been filed against you, a proactive attorney can present mitigating evidence to the prosecutor on your behalf and can sometimes convince them not to file charges against you at all. Even if charges have been filed, a skilled attorney can review the evidence to determine if the prosecution would be able to prove the case against you at trial and may even be able to persuade the prosecution to dismiss the charges against you.
- Negotiate a favorable plea bargain: An effective attorney will identify the strengths of your case and the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case and can very often get the prosecution to let you plead guilty to lesser charges that carry less severe consequences.
- Understand the potential consequences of conviction: An experienced criminal attorney will be able to explain the collateral consequences of conviction, such as a suspended or revoked licenses, loss of employment, prohibition from owning or possessing firearms, registration as a drug or sex offender, restrictions from being near specified people or places, or loss of property confiscated during an arrest. Your attorney will make sure you understand the consequences you face and will keep them in mind when working to resolve your case.
- Use local legal connections to your advantage: If your attorney is well-established in the local legal community, he or she may be able to leverage his connections, such as relationships with other lawyers and prosecutors, to your advantage. If your lawyer has a good working relationship with the prosecutor, don’t underestimate the effect it could have on your case!
Am I eligible for record expungement or other forms of post-conviction relief?
Expungement means that you are released from “all penalties and disabilities” arising from your conviction. One of the most important results of expungement is that when applying for most types of jobs, you can truthfully say you were never convicted of a crime. Both felonies and misdemeanors can be expunged, provided that (1) you’ve successfully completed probation and (2) you aren’t currently charged with a crime, on probation or serving a sentence. (There are certain types of cases, including serious sex offenses against children, that cannot be expunged, however.)
Expungement is just one form of post-conviction relief, however. Other areas where I can help you include:
- Early Termination of Probation: I can help you get early termination if at least half of the term of probation has expired and you’ve done everything you were supposed to do while on probation.
- Warrant Recalls: Sometimes people have outstanding warrants for their arrest. I can appear in court on your behalf and get the bench warrants recalled.
- Felony Reduction: I may be able to successfully bring motions to reduce certain felony convictions to simple misdemeanor convictions.
- Juvenile Record Sealing: Contrary to popular belief, juvenile records are not automatically sealed once you turn 18. You may want to have them sealed so they cannot be seen by third parties when you’re applying for jobs. I can petition the court to make sure that the court seals any juvenile convictions you may have.
The police have started asking me questions about a crime and I think they consider me as a suspect. What should I do?
First and foremost, do not agree to answer any of the officer’s questions without seeking the advice of a knowledgeable criminal attorney, even if you have nothing to hide. Most of the time, the police are able to solidify a criminal case against a suspect by statements that the suspect made themselves during the course of the investigation.
If you are the suspect of an alleged crime, talk to an experienced criminal attorney immediately to determine if you should cooperate with the investigation. You have no legal obligation to talk to the police, and if they do have evidence against you, an attorney can communicate with law enforcement on your behalf so that your rights are protected.
If I am accused of a crime, what are my rights under the Constitution?
An accused person has five basic rights under the Constitution:
- The right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint a public defender. However, at the resolution of your case, the court may seek compensation if it is determined that you have some means to pay for legal counsel.
- The right to a jury trial. At this trial the prosecution must prove each element of each offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The right to confront witnesses and to use the subpoena power of the court to compel them to testify.
- The right against self-incrimination. This is the right to remain silent and to not to act as a witness against yourself.
- The right to produce evidence. This is the right to present favorable evidence on your own behalf to help disprove the charges against you.
I was arrested for a crime. What can I expect at my arraignment?
An arraignment is the court proceeding where the judge tells you, the accused, that a criminal complaint has been brought against you and informs you of the nature of the charges against you. You’re now now called a “defendant” and have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges.
It is rarely wise to plead guilty to any criminal offense at arraignment without first having a criminal attorney review the evidence against you and negotiate the case with the prosecution. A skilled criminal defense attorney can often negotiate a better disposition in a criminal case that protects your rights and limits consequences you face.
If you do not show up in court at your arraignment, a bench warrant will go out for your arrest and you will be brought to court in handcuffs rather than of your own free will.
For answers to frequently asked questions about DUIs and DWIs, please visit my DUI Center.