FAQs About Criminal Defense
What Skills Should You Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you are facing criminal charges, selecting the right lawyer to handle your case is one of the most important decisions you can make. Clients often find that although they may have made a bad decision, they can effectively mitigate the consequences by making a good decision when choosing an attorney to represent them.
It is crucial to recognize the impact an experienced criminal attorney
can have on your ability to build a strong defense. A knowledgeable litigator with a background in criminal cases is essential in going up against the prosecutor and standing up for you. The attorney you choose must also have strong negotiation skills, as this will contribute to their ability to arrange more favorable terms with the prosecution throughout any hearings you will face, or through a plea agreement. When your lawyer has the necessary experience in this area, you have a better chance of receiving a more lenient sentence. Depending on the details of your case, a skilled attorney may even be able to get the charges against you dismissed.
How Do You Choose the Best Criminal Defense Lawyer?
The most effective way to find the best attorney to represent you in your criminal case is to be prepared and know what questions you should ask before settling on a lawyer.
The first questions you will want to ask a prospective attorney are how much experience they have in criminal defense, and what their experience level is in handling the specifics of your case. Different lawyers have distinct specialties that their practice focuses on, such as violent crime, drug charges
, and DUI. Once you have determined that the attorney you are considering has the appropriate experience in your type of case, you can move on to more specific questions.
You will want to be sure to ask your lawyer about the strategy they intend to use in your defense, and whether they feel as if they are qualified to handle your criminal case. If you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, you should then discuss finances with the attorney. Since this is an important factor for anyone, you will want to know what their legal fees are, and what type of payment structure they offer.
What Are the Next Steps and Obligations After Being Arrested and Released on Bail?
Once you have been processed and posted bail, if it is required, you will be released from police custody and you should soon receive a date for your arraignment in court. This proceeding is a brief hearing in which the judge formally reads the charges that have been brought against you. As the defendant in the case, you have the opportunity at the arraignment to enter your plea. This typically means that you will plead “not guilty,” “guilty,” or “no contest.” A plea of “no contest” means that you are not admitting guilt, but you are acknowledging that the prosecutor likely has the necessary evidence to have you convicted.
When your arraignment is over, you may be given a schedule for various pre-trial hearings, and then finally your trial. Since every case is different, the timeline for your case will depend on the details, how complex the case is, how serious the charges are, how many victims and witnesses are involved, the length of time it takes to depose the witnesses, and how long it takes for the evidence to be processed.
Depending on the unique details of your case, you may choose to plead “guilty.” If so, you will then receive a date to appear in court for your sentencing. Many clients find that it is beneficial to have an experienced attorney on their side, even if they are pleading guilty, as the lawyer can make a case for leniency before the judge in your sentencing.
Do You Always Have to Go to Trial?
If you would like to try to avoid going to trial, a reputable criminal defense attorney can help you look into your options. This is typically done by negotiations with the prosecutor and settling on a plea agreement that both parties are satisfied with. Many clients choose this approach because it avoids the stress, expense, time, and effort involved with a court trial.
In some cases, this is also a preferable option, because resolving your case in this way may be the best way to avoid a severe punishment. Clients who are facing the possibility of serious jail time, or even worse consequences, often choose the plea agreement as a way to avoid the most severe potential outcome of their case. This is something you should discuss in depth with your attorney before making a final decision, as a plea agreement usually means that you will need to plead “guilty” or “no contest.”
Although it is not very common, your criminal defense lawyer may also be able to present sufficient evidence to have your case “tossed out.” This is known as a dismissal of charges, and is the most desirable outcome, if it is a possibility.
Do Criminal Charges Automatically Mean You Will Have to Go to Jail?
This, of course, depends on the circumstances of your particular case. There are various factors that come into play, such as whether there are any aggravating factors involved in your crime, your criminal history, the evidence against you, and the severity of the charges that are being brought against you. Jail time may be avoided, but it is essential to have an experienced attorney to walk you through the criminal process.
Your attorney will always do whatever they can to help keep you from a prison sentence. If your specific case doesn’t allow for you to plead “not guilty,” or if success in that plea is not likely, your criminal defense lawyer can try to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor that involves a lesser charge or a less severe penalty. There are also many situations in which your attorney may be able to make a case for leniency when you go in front of the judge.
Proceed With Caution During and After Your Arrest
If you have been arrested on criminal charges in San Diego, there are a few tips you should keep in mind to prevent making your situation even worse. Some of the most important moments occur during your arrest, and if you are currently seeking legal representation this may come too late, but it is still worth mentioning. The other tips include the best way to proceed while you are awaiting arraignment, and ultimately your criminal trial.
• At the time of arrest. Being defiant or aggressive, and acting disrespectfully or resisting arrest will only make matters worse for you and could even result in additional criminal charges. For this reason, it is vital to remain calm when you are being arrested, and in most cases, to remain as quiet as possible. The biggest mistake most people make when they are being arrested is thinking that they can talk their way out of the situation. In nearly every case, this attempt is futile, and often complicates matters more.
Even if you have never been arrested, you have most likely heard the Miranda Rights being read on tv crime shows. The well-known line “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law” could not be more important. Furthermore, when you attempt to bargain with police officers, give excuses, or bribe them in any way, it is most certainly going to come back to haunt you.
The best way to proceed when you are faced with arrest is to stay calm. Be respectful, and remain quiet. Patience is the key, as you will be able to request a phone call to a criminal defense attorney after you have been processed by the police and taken to jail. After you have spoken with your lawyer, you can begin to plan your defense, but it is best to wait for the counsel of an experienced legal professional.
• After you are processed. Once the police have processed you, you will be able to speak with an attorney, and they can advise you on the next steps you should take. Your lawyer will be able to help you understand the bail process, if that is an option for your release. If not, they will be able to advise you and help you understand your situation, the timeline, and schedule while you await your arraignment. Your lawyer will be a major component in navigating the legal system and achieving a favorable outcome.
• As you await trial. After you have hired an attorney to represent you, it is vital to remain quiet, in general, and only discuss your alleged crimes, charges against you, and any other details related to your case with your lawyer. There are many ways that criminal cases may become complicated, regardless of whether they are felony or misdemeanor crimes, and it is easy to allow information to fall on the wrong ears that may influence your case or incriminate you when you go before the judge for your trial.
Defending Criminal Cases
Being accused with a crime is a very stressful experience. It is crucial to hire an attorney that has the experience, skill and desire to help you in this stressful time, as even a charge that seems not as serious can have an impact upon your life.
I use the experience and skill gained as a prosecutor and years as a defense attorney to know every angle the prosecution will try to use against you and will not hesitate to go to trial on your charge.
In San Diego, California, a case typically flows through a series of court appearances which include:
The Court provides the Charging Document and a plea of not guilty is entered.
Depending upon which jurisdiction your case is in this stage is either done in court or via communications with the prosecutor.
If the offense is a misdemeanor and no negotiation is reached a trial will proceed.
If the offense is a felony and no negotiation is reached a preliminary hearing will proceed. At this hearing the Court will hear evidence and arguments and determine whether there is enough probable cause for the case to be decided at trial by a jury.
A jury of your peers will hear the evidence as presented and arguments and decide guilt.
Every stage of defending a criminal case is delicate and complex and should be handled by an attorney that is prepared both in skill and experience. If you are in need of a criminal defense team to help guide you through the murky waters of the legal system then pick up the phone a call Zentz & Zentz today!