Criminal Law

Five Things to Consider When Looking For a Criminal Attorney:

  • Do they specialize in Criminal Law?
  • Have they handled this type of criminal case?
  • Do they have the staff and the resources to properly handle your case?
  • Are they well established and respected throughout the legal community?
  • Are they honest in assessing your case and quoting your fee?
The Criminal Process

The criminal process typically begins with a stop or an arrest. The process, which I have summarized for you into 5 simple steps, may end at any point up to the time of sentencing. Where the process ends will depend on the facts and circumstances of your specific case. You have certain rights at every stage of the criminal process which are summarized for you:

1. The Apprehension

You may be stopped for questioning by the police (this is not an arrest). A stop occurs when a police officer detains you to ask you questions, but does not move you to a different location. A police officer should not stop you unless he has a reasonable belief that you have violated the law.

Even though you are not under arrest at this point, you do not have to answer any questions that the police officer asks you. The police may also ask to search you or your vehicle. The police officer cannot search your car without your consent unless he has "probable cause". "Probable cause" is a legal determination that you won't be able to challenge until later. Because of this, you may want to tell the police officer that you do not consent to a search of your vehicle.

The police officer may perform a search anyway, but if it is later determined that there was not probable cause, at least you won't have consented to the search. The police officer could decide at this point that there is no reason to arrest you and your involvement in the criminal process could end here.

IF YOU ARE PULLED OVER BY THE POLICE:

The police will ask for your permission to search your vehicle. The best advice is to say "no, thank you". If they have to ask your permission, you may assume they have no right to search your car. If they had the right, they would not bother asking. Only consent to a search of your car if you are absolutely positive that no contraband will be found and you are sure that none of your friends have left anything in your vehicle.

IF YOU ARE PULLED OVER FOR DRUNK DRIVING:

  1. You should not refuse the Breath Test unless it is your 2nd Drunk Driving Arrest in 7 years or your 3rd Drunk Driving Arrest in 10 years.
  2. Refusing the Breath Test results in a total loss of your driving privileges for 6 months and 6 points added to your driving record.
  3. Be polite toward the Police Officer. He/She may give you a break. Be careful about what you say. If you admit that you were drinking it WILL BE used against you in court.
  4. You have a right to call an attorney before taking the Breath Test at the Police Station. Insist on it if they refuse your request, IT IS YOUR RIGHT!
  5. After you take the Breath Test you have the right to request an independent Breath or Blood/Urine Test at a hospital. Do this if you suspect the Police Breath Test was faulty.
  6. Most individuals are released the next morning. However, the louder you are the longer you stay in jail.
  7. Call an attorney the next day while the information is still fresh in your mind.
2. The Arrest

Each jurisdiction has different rules regarding when an individual can be placed under arrest. In general, an officer can arrest you if he has probable cause to believe that you committed a felony, or if he sees you commit a misdemeanor, or if there is a warrant for your arrest. When you are arrested you will be taken into police custody.

When you are placed under arrest, the police must inform you of your constitutional rights. This includes your right to remain silent and your right to obtain the advice of an attorney. When you are arrested you should be given an opportunity to contact a lawyer or anyone else you want to let know what has happened to you. You are not limited to a single call. Once you are arrested there is a limited amount of time before you must either be charged with a crime or released. If you have been held for an unreasonable amount of time without being charged, your attorney can ask a judge to order your release.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED AND OR QUESTIONED:

You should try to remain calm and ask repeatedly to speak to an attorney. If the police question you, it is very important that you ask to speak to an attorney before the questioning begins. Common sense tells us that if they want to question you, they probably suspect that you were involved in some criminal activity. Above all, do not write out a statement until you have spoken with an attorney. Many police officers will try very hard to convince you that you do not need an attorney or that you will be better off talking to them without an attorney. Make no mistake-- a police officer's goal is to get you to make a statement that will incriminate you, or worse, get you to confess to a crime. If they say that they want to help you out, then they should not mind that you want to talk to an attorney first.

3. The Booking

After you are arrested and charged with a crime you will be booked; you will be finger printed; your name and the crime that you have been charged with will be entered into the official police record; your personal belongings will be taken from you for safe keeping while you are in custody; they will be inventoried and you will be asked to sign the inventory. Depending on the charge and the circumstances of your case, you may be released and ordered to appear for your hearing in court. You may be released on your own recognizance or you may have to put up a certain amount of bail to secure your release.

In other instances, you may remain in police custody until there is a court hearing on your release. If this happens, you will be asked to enter a plea. You can enter a plea of "not guilty", "no contest", or "guilty". If you enter a not guilty plea the judge will decide on the terms of your release or if you will be released pending your trial.

4. The Sentencing

If you enter a plea of no contest or of guilty, there will not be a trial. In this situation, you will either be sentenced immediately or sentenced at a later time. If you are to be sentenced at some point in the future, the judge will determine whether you should be held in custody until sentencing or whether you should be released and ordered to appear for sentencing.

5. The Trial

If you entered a not guilty plea you will have a trial. At the end of your trial, if you are found not guilty, you will be free to go, and, for you, the criminal process will end at that point. If you are found guilty, you will go through the sentencing process as described above.

Whether or not you choose Erwin F. Meiers III, P.C. to represent your case, having a lawyer with experience in criminal defense can make a tremendous difference to the outcome, while helping you through every stage of the criminal process.

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