I’ve been arrested for a crime. Do I really need to hire a lawyer?
Most people do not have a background in or experience with the criminal justice system so the process can seem scary. Criminal convictions can have consequences beyond just a jail time or a fine. For example, some convictions may lead to loss of your driver’s or professional licenses you may hold. Plus, there are certain rules and procedures that are used for any party that appears in Court. An experienced lawyer can help explain possible consequences or outcomes of your case to you as well as guide you smoothly through the court process.
Don’t all first-time offenders get a break and have their charges dropped?
No. The prosecutor in each case has the discretion to drop or prosecute each charge. Some offices even have policies that dictate if and when a prosecutor may dismiss a charge. For example, if you are charged with a DWI/DUI or a crime that involves alleged domestic violence, the state may not be willing to drop the charge even if there is no prior history of criminal conduct or abuse.
Even if you decide not to hire a lawyer, it is still important to consult with someone about your case. Even if they do not provide you legal advice about your case, an experience lawyer can shed light on the court process, the types of penalties you may be subjected to and the collateral consequences of pleading guilty to the charge.
I just want to plead guilty. Why do I need a lawyer?
The criminal justice system is not that simple. The first chance that most defendants have to enter their plea is at their arraignment. This is typically where a person pleads “not guilty” and is formally told by the Court what they are being charged with. If you plead guilty at this point of the case, you’re allowing the prosecutor to ask the judge for any sentence they want within the statutory limits of the crime. It would then be up to the judge to decide your sentence.
A competent attorney can give you advice on several different aspects of your case. For example, they should advise you whether the you have a legal or factual defense to the crime which you have been charged and the typical range of sentences for other similarly situated people. If they are able to negotiate a plea deal with your consent, you would go into a plea and sentencing hearing knowing exactly what the outcome of the charge is.
I was arrested for DWI/DUI and failed the breathalyzer. Is there anything I can do?
Sure. Each case has to be assessed individually for both the legal and factual circumstances of the case. The laws of each state require police to act in conformity with both the state and federal constitutions as they relate to police/citizen contact. The DWI/DUI laws of each state also have very specific rules about how field sobriety and breath or blood testing must be done in order for the results to be admissible in court. A lawyer who is devoted to a criminal defense practice will be able to assess each of these issues to see if the results of the testing is admissible.
I didn’t take any of the field sobriety or breath tests but I was still arrested for DWI/DUI. How can police do that?
Although most people are familiar with the part of the law that says a .08 in a breath or blood test or higher is a prima facie evidence that a person is impaired, a second part of law says that a person commits the crime of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol when a person is impaired, however slight. This means that the State is able to charge a person of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol if they have probable cause to show that the person’s driving was impaired to any degree. To gain a conviction, however, the State must prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard in the Court system.
If you’re arrested for a DUI/DWI, don’t lose hope. Reach out to an experienced, knowledgeable attorney who can help you through the process.