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Frequently Asked Questions

When do I need a criminal defense attorney?

If you are asking this question then you need a criminal defense attorney to represent you. Police and prosecutors must solve crimes and prosecute violators. Their jobs do not include protecting your legal rights. The job of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is to protect your rights during a police investigation and the criminal prosecution that may result from it.

What should I do if the police are investigating me?

Contact an attorney as soon as you become aware that the police have an interest in you. Police make mistakes. They may overlook evidence that is favorable to you. A defense attorney challenges the police theory of the crime by investigating the case. This may result in charges being dropped or reduce.

What do I do if I am arrested?

If you know you are going to be arrested, call a criminal defense attorney immediately. If you are taken into custody, be cooperative, but politely tell the police that you are exercising your right to remain silent and want to speak with an attorney. Do not make any statements to law enforcement officials. You have rights that a criminal defense attorney can protect. Your right to remain silent is one of them. Do not speak to anyone. Keep in mind that friends, relatives and other people you talk to can be subpoenaed to go to court to divulge what you told them. The only person with whom you should discuss your case is your attorney.

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a crime for which the maximum jail sentence is one year or less. A felony conviction is much more serious and can result a prison sentence in excess of one year. A person convicted of a felony may lose the right to vote and may find it difficult to obtain employment after a conviction.

I committed the crime; do I still need a lawyer?

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can challenge the prosecution’s evidence against you. Illegal searches and seizures and improper questioning of suspects are two of the errors commonly made by law enforcement.
Even if the evidence proves that you are guilty of the crime an experienced attorney who knows the criminal process can often negotiate a reduction of the charges or a reduction in the sentence through plea bargaining.

Was I not under arrest if the police did not read my rights?

Possibly. You can be arrested without being read your rights, but what you say while in custody could be thrown out if the case goes to trial. Being read your rights is a protection for the statements you’ve made and pertains to an interrogation, not an arrest. The more important issue is whether there was a warrant or probable cause for your arrest. Also keep in mind that police can question you without arresting you.

Do the police always need a warrant to conduct a search?

No, but they need probable cause. For example, you’re pulled over while driving because a taillight was out. During the stop, the officers determine there might be an illegal substance in your vehicle. They can search the vehicle as long as they can show probable cause to do so. In most cases, they need a search warrant to conduct a search of your home, but if there isn’t time, again, they only need to show probable cause.

I was asked to go to the police station for questioning. Do I have to go?

No. You never have to go anywhere or do anything with law enforcement unless you are under arrest. If you decide to go in for questioning, you should take a lawyer with you. This is the case whether you were involved in a crime or not. If you choose not to go in for questioning you should politely refuse the request. The police will either leave you alone or arrest you if they have probable cause.

Can I go to jail if I’m charged with a misdemeanor?

It’s less likely you’ll go to jail if prosecuted for a misdemeanor, but depending on the jurisdiction and severity of the crime it is possible. You might spend time in a holding cell, too, when first arrested for a misdemeanor, so the most straightforward answer is “yes, you can go to jail if you’re charged with a misdemeanor.” The likelihood of serving jail time in any situation can be reduced when you have a lawyer representing you.

If I am charged with damaging property or theft, will I have to pay restitution?

More than likely, yes, but the final decision is up to the judge. Most order restitution and if not, many states require that judge to provide a justification for why it was not ordered. Restitution is almost always part of theft and property damage cases. Keep in mind, restitution and fines are two different things and it’s likely you’ll be ordered to pay both – the former to the victim and the latter to the court.

Why do I have no bond in my case?

There are only two reasons in which it would be legal for there to be no bond. The first is when you’ve been accused of a crime punishable by death or life in prison and the evidence against you is significant. The other is when you’ve committed a violation of probation. You committed no new crime, but you violated your agreement with the court and therefore relinquished your right to bond.

How can I erase my criminal record?

Whether or not you can have your criminal record erased or sealed varies a great deal based on your location and the crimes you were accused of committing. At the very least, you’ll need to satisfy all of the requirements of your conviction before your record can be erased and then you must wait a certain period of time before doing so. The rules regarding your criminal record vary if you were convicted of a crime before turning 18.

What is the difference between parole and probation?

The difference between parole and probation is that parole is used to conditionally release you from incarceration and allow you to complete your remaining sentence out in the community. Probation, on the other hand, is typically used in lieu of incarceration and places you under court ordered supervision by a probation agency. You’re assigned a probation officer and are required to check in periodically with that person concerning your whereabouts and activities.

How much time does the state have to file charges against someone for a crime?

The length of time the state has to file charges– also known as the statute of limitations – varies based on a number of factors. The amount of time authorities in your area have is based on the severity of the crime, the circumstances under which it occurred, and the specific rules and regulations in your legal jurisdiction. In general, charges must be filed within one to five years, depending on the severity of the crime.

What grounds do I have to file a motion to quash?

A motion to quash is used to request the court render a previous decision made by it or a lower court null or invalid. It’s similar to a motion to dismiss, but it addresses a previous ruling rather than the current filing. Grounds might include mistakes made by counsel, a mistake made on the part of a court, or if the issuance of some court document like a subpoena was carried out in a legal manner.