FAQ About Criminal Defense Attorneys, Arrests, Criminal Justice and Related Issues

When you get arrested, you will be assigned a court date at the police station or at the time the police officer gives you a ticket. All cases are first heard at Superior Court, Part “B”. These courts are located at over 20 sites throughout Connecticut. If you are arrested for a “domestic” incident, the law requires that the defendant must appear at the next scheduled court date.
If you are arrested for your alleged offense, then you will be booked and placed in jail until your arraignment or until bail is posted. Some minor misdemeanors may only result in a fine upon conviction, particularly if you are granted probation. More serious crimes, however, will probably result in a jail or prison sentence upon conviction.
Bonds are set at the police station by the police. A “bail commissioner” who floats around the various police stations can override the police. Telephone books and bond agency lists found at most police stations are sources of information for finding a bondsman. Their nonrefundable commission ranges from 7 to 10 percent of the size of the bond.
As soon as possible. Without a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side, your chances of successfully fighting your charges are very slim. You will have no control over which attorney represents you unless you hire your own. Do not hesitate to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney of your choice if you have been arrested for a crime of any kind.
Since the results of an arrest will be part of your criminal history record for life, you need to concern yourself with getting the best possible results. The prosecutor will not give you legal advice as they represent the state. You need someone who is on your side 100 percent who will fight for the best possible result. Even lawyers hire lawyers when they get arrested.
There are all kinds of alternative programs available to those defendants who are first offenders for non-serious crimes. Your attorney must be aware of these various programs to best protect your rights.
It is in your best interest to consult a criminal defense lawyer as early as possible if you suspect you will be facing the criminal justice system. An attorney will fight for your legal and constitutional rights, and monitor the proceedings for legality and fairness. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for free legal counsel.
For the most part, if you are a possible target of the police concerning criminal activity, you should generally not talk to the police before you first talk to an attorney. In our office, we usually talk to the police first. Most of the time, we inform the police that our client will not be talking to them. It is very true anything you tell the police can be used to prosecute you. A lawyer may very well be needed before you are ever arrested.
It depends on the type of the charges; your prior criminal record, if any, and the complex nature of the facts. The cheapest is not usually the best. “You get what you pay for,” is indeed true. Some law firms work on a volume business basis. We do not. We feel strongly of the need to spend the appropriate amount of time for each defendant to ensure the best results. You should look upon any fee paid to an attorney as an investment in one’s future. Poor representation can have life-long repercussions.
Experience! Look for an attorney who goes to your designated court with some frequency; someone who knows the prosecutors; someone who has worked with judges in the past and knows their temperament, likes and dislikes. You want a law firm that has a solid reputation in the legal community. You want a law firm that will fight for the best result possible.
State court handles all criminal cases that are not federal crimes. Federal offenses include crimes such as kidnapping, sex trafficking, federal drug trafficking, white collar crimes, fraud, and other serious crimes. Federal court cases require the representation of a criminal lawyer who is experienced in the local federal courts.
Exact definitions vary by jurisdiction, but the traditional definition of a felony is a crime that is punishable by a year or more in prison. A misdemeanor is a crime that is generally punishable by imprisonment of less than one year. Felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors.
If the police arrest you, immediately ask to speak with an attorney. Do not speak to the police without your criminal defense attorney present; doing so could result in you incriminating yourself.
The grand jury decides whether there is sufficient evidence to indict a suspect and continue the criminal proceedings against him or her. The grand jury reviews the evidence and may hear testimony in deciding whether to indict someone, but, unlike a standard jury, the grand jury makes no decision about guilt or innocence. All states use the grand jury system to some extent, though there are differences in terms of when a grand jury indictment is necessary and the numbers of jurors that serves on one.
The prosecutor is the attorney who represents the federal, state, local or tribal government in a case against a criminal defendant. The title of the prosecutor varies by jurisdiction, but some common titles include district attorney, county attorney, solicitor, city attorney, United States attorney and state’s attorney. The prosecutor is tasked with seeking punishment for those committing crimes, balanced with the duty to fairly try such individuals.
Probation is a type of criminal sentence that allows a person to stay in the community rather than serve time in prison as long as he or she complies with certain conditions (like regularly reporting to a probation officer, refraining from alcohol and drugs, holding down a job, not associating with certain people and not committing further crimes). Parole is the supervised release of a prisoner from incarceration into the community before the end of his or her sentence or after a period of imprisonment has been completed. Conditions of parole are often similar to those of probation.
Depending on the applicable federal or state laws, part of a criminal sentence may include the payment of restitution to the victim or victims for their losses associated with the crime. Restitution may include compensation for property damage or loss, medical and rehabilitation expenses, lost income or funeral expenses. Part of the philosophy behind criminal restitution is to give the criminal offender a direct part in making things whole for his or her victim.
White-collar crime, also called “paper crime,” refers generally to non-violent financial crimes involving fraud or other dishonesty committed in business or commercial contexts. Examples include insider trading, embezzlement, securities fraud and tax evasion.
A minor is typically prosecuted for criminal conduct in a separate juvenile court system. The philosophy of the juvenile justice system is that children should not be punished or stigmatized for criminal conduct because of their immature abilities to make proper choices and to recognize right from wrong. Instead the role of the juvenile justice system is seen as rehabilitative rather than punitive. Particularly violent crimes may, depending on the age of the offender, be tried in adult criminal court instead.
It depends. If a person who is not an American citizen is convicted of certain crimes, he or she can be removed (formerly known as being “deported”). This includes those in the U.S. on work or student visas as well as lawful permanent residents living and working in the United States. Pursuant to U.S. immigration law, if a noncitizen is convicted of an aggravated felony, a crime of moral turpitude or any one of a number of other specifically enumerated crimes (such as violations of laws relating to domestic violence, controlled substances, immigration fraud and firearms), he or she is at risk of removal. In addition to possible removal, a conviction may adversely affect a lawful permanent resident’s ability to one day become a citizen.
Penalties vary from crime to crime. Some cases, such as driving while intoxicated (DWI) or prostitution, are misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and up to 1 year in jail. Other cases are felonies and are far more serious, such as aggravated assault, sexual assault, burglary, and murder. These cases could incur a fine of up to $10,000 and land you in prison for years, decades, or even for life.
In order for a legal DWI arrest to occur, the officer must have had legal grounds to pull you over in the first place and must have gained adequate evidence that you were intoxicated. If you fail even one field sobriety test or blow a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading of 0.08% or higher (or less for commercial drivers and underage persons), you can be legally arrested under charges of DWI.
Without a doubt, you cannot afford to go without a criminal defense lawyer by your side. Only an attorney will have the knowledge, skill, experience, and respect needed to defend you against the prosecution’s statements at trial. You should not have to suffer from a sentence you do not deserve or that is harsher than you deserve. Contact my firm today to fight your charges and defend you from a harmful criminal conviction.
The police officers involved write reports about the crime, obtain witness statements, run a background check of the suspect, and do further investigation as needed before submitting their work to the prosecuting authority. A prosecutor reviews the documents to determine whether criminal charges – a misdemeanor or a felony – are warranted. The prosecutor has the option of rejecting the case for criminal prosecution, filing a misdemeanor, or filing a felony charge. If charges are filed, the next step in the criminal process is in court, at an arraignment.
Bail is financial assurance that a defendant will return to court after being released from custody. There are two ways to post bail. First, “cash” bail may be posted with the custodial agency to cover the entire amount of the bail. At the end of the case, if bail is exonerated, the defendant will receive a check for the entire amount posted (takes about 8-10 weeks). Second, a “bond” through a bail company may be posted. A defendant in the State of Vermont pays 10% of the entire amount to a bail company, which puts up the entire bail amount through a bond. If bail is exonerated, the 10% is not returned to the defendant because this is the fee he paid to the bail company to post bail on his behalf (like an insurance premium).
Many cases are resolved with police just closing their files, because the evidence of a crime is simply insufficient. The court system does not get involved. However, as with many things in life, the world is not perfect and police officers do make mistakes. People have been falsely accused of rape, domestic violence, murder, and even drug possession because officers were either making negligent mistakes in their investigation, intentionally framing suspects, or intentionally lying about probable cause to justify an otherwise unlawful search of a home, car, or even of someone’s person. Innocent people have served years in prison only to be released upon DNA testing.
Arraignment is the initial court proceeding where a defendant is advised of his charges, and usually enters a “Not Guilty” plea. If a defendant is out on bail, he/she stays out of custody unless the prosecutor demonstrates to the court that the defendant is a risk of flight or non-appearance. In other words, the prosecutor has to explain to the judge why the defendant needs to be rearrested when he has already voluntarily shown up to court after posting bail. The prosecutor clearly has the burden of proof here, and bail gets increased in cases where the defendant is on probation, there are new charges filed, or the source of bail (the monies used) are connected to illegal conduct.
The U.S. Constitution has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court as giving everyone to right to act “pro-se,” or, in other words, to represent him/her self without an attorney. However, our courtroom experience has shown that individuals representing themselves cannot do nearly as good of a job defending themselves as an experienced criminal defense attorney can—even if the litigant is a civil attorney who does not have a criminal defense or prosecution background. As former State’s Attorneys, we’ve dealt with many people representing themselves in court and have seen numerous errors committed by litigants representing themselves. Also, a DUI plea carries a mandatory license suspension. On a first time DUI, a license is suspended for either no less than 90 days or no less than 6 months if there is a refusal to submit to an evidentiary breath test. Many people believe that if they provide a sample of breath and the result is a .08% or greater than they have no opportunity to defend themselves. That is not always the case. An experienced criminal defense attorney can uncover possible constitutional or statutory violations that law enforcement may have committed while interacting with you and can also determine after a thorough review of the evidence whether factual problems exist for the prosecution making their case difficult to prove. A case is never as simple as whether or not an individual’s alcohol concentration was a .08% or greater.
A prosecutor makes an independent decision on what charges to file, irrespective of what the arrest was for. The police may tell you that you are going to be charged with a certain level of offense. However, the exclusive right to charge a crime belongs to the prosecutor who may follow the officer’s recommendation or deviate from the recommendation based on the facts and circumstances of the offense.
If your constitutional rights were violated, the Attorneys at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams will aggressively seek to exclude evidence obtained as a result of police misconduct. At times, police misconduct occurs in searches that take place during ordinary traffic stops or in a suspect’s home. Additionally, if law enforcement is too aggressive in trying to obtain an incriminating statement from a suspect, it may violate the suspect’s Miranda rights. Litigation in the criminal court allows a defense lawyer to protect his client’s rights by submitting motions to the judge seeking to exclude the recovered evidence or received statements from trial. Often a successful motion to suppress evidence cripples the prosecutor’s case, causing the case to either be dismissed or substantially reduced in plea negotiations.
For our criminal defense clients, the offense conduct is often negative (presuming the prosecutors can prove it), but the entire picture of the defendant’s life may be far more positive and inspirational. Showing a client’s entire background to the court comes with an in-depth investigation, and usually proves to be a major benefit to the outcome of the case. Character letters from employers, family members, social organizations (church, temple, AYSO, wherever client participates) assist our clients on a daily basis. This is one substantial factor in obtaining probation for clients instead of prison. Often presenting clients’ entire backgrounds have resulted in charges being filed as misdemeanors rather than felonies, or in criminal charges not being filed at all.
Criminal convictions may cause direct and grave consequences to someone’s immigration status, often leading to deportation proceedings. The INS guidelines are often very complex and the Attorneys at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams frequently confer with immigration lawyers to properly advise clients. Before going to court, our attorneys discuss with clients their immigration status. Often our attorneys seek charges that are not considered by the INS as moral turpitude offenses (which are subject to deportation); this is done in an effort to protect our client’s immigration consequences.
Federal court cases are typically investigated by federal agencies, including the FBI, DEA, Customs, Treasury, and other federal agencies. Sometimes state and local police agencies work with federal prosecutors if the offenses involve major quantity of drugs, weapons or other contraband. The federal government has more resources to prosecute cases, including special units to prosecute drugs, fraud, and violent crimes. While the state and local government also has special units, they have fewer prosecutors with larger case loads. Also, local law enforcement does not have nearly as many resources to complete investigations with as much thoroughness as federal law enforcement. For the most part, it is definitely in a criminal defendant’s interest to be prosecuted in state, rather than federal court. The state of Vermont’s sentencing system has more flexibility in terms of alternative sentencing options than sentences handed down in Federal Court.
Clearing up an arrest warrant can be done one way: appearing in front of the court that issued the warrant. As long as the warrant is in the system, the person can be arrested for it in any state, in any contact with the police or government agency, and even coming into the United States at the airport. Immediate action to clear up the warrant is the best way to approach this legal problem. Voluntarily coming into the court may often prevent later jail time if the person is actually arrested on the warrant.
Each state (or even county) makes its own rules as to who qualifies for a free lawyer. However, as a general rule, if you are judged to be indigent, and there is actual risk of a jail or prison sentence, the court must appoint free legal counsel.

If you don’t qualify for free help but can’t afford the full cost of a private lawyer, you may still obtain the services of a court-appointed attorney. Most states provide for “partial indigency,” which means that, at the conclusion of the case, the judge will require you to reimburse the state or county for a portion of the costs of representation.

In most criminal courts the arraignment is where you first appear before a judge and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the offense charged. Assuming you enter a plea of not guilty, which almost every defendant does at this early stage, the following steps also happen at the arraignment:

the judge sets a date for the next procedural event in your case
the judge considers any bail requests that you or the prosecutor make
the judge appoints a lawyer for you, if appropriate, and
the judge may ask you to “waive time” — that is, give up your right to have the trial or other statutory proceedings occur within specified periods of time.

Most people can, if necessary, handle this proceeding without an attorney. However, it’s almost always better to have a lawyer, whether court-appointed or privately retained.

Recently arrested people should usually talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Often, the most urgent priority is getting a lawyer to arrange a defendant’s release and provide some information about what’s to come in the days ahead.

If you have been represented by a criminal defense lawyer in the past, that is usually the lawyer to call — assuming you were satisfied with his or her services.

Judges rarely grant a defendant ’s request for change of a public defender or other court-appointed lawyer. Disagreements between government-paid lawyers and defendants over strategic decisions are common and rarely are cause for a change of counsel. However, if in a serious case a schism between a lawyer and a defendant is so severe that a professional relationship is impossible, a judge may grant a defendant ’s request for new counsel. Incompetence of counsel is another possible basis of a change of counsel, but one that rarely arises.
The most obvious rule is that the less severe the charged crime, the more sensible it is to represent yourself. Defendants charged with minor traffic offenses should rarely hire an attorney, while defendants charged with serious felonies should rarely be without one.

The most critical piece of information in making a decision about self-representation is what the likely punishment will be if convicted. It is almost always wise to be represented by an attorney when jail time is possible. And remember, convictions for even seemingly minor offenses can carry hidden “downstream ” costs, such as more severe punishment for a second conviction, increased insurance rates, loss or suspension of a professional license, and deportation of non-citizens.

The U.S. Constitution provides that you are entitled to representation by an attorney if the state is trying to deprive you of your liberty. This means that a court may be required to appoint a lawyer to represent you for free—or for a fee, you can afford—if the crime you are charged with carries a jail sentence.

According to the federal constitution, a defendant has a right to an attorney before being punished by imprisonment. Some courts have held that the right to counsel applies not only wherever imprisonment is imposed, but wherever it may be imposed. States are free to provide a right to counsel in other circumstances, too, as when the defendant could be sentenced to a fine of a certain amount. (Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975).)

Because most criminal defendants are unable to afford their own attorneys, many states have public defender’s offices. Public defenders (PDs) are fully licensed lawyers whose sole job is to represent poor defendants in criminal cases. Because they appear daily in the same courts, PDs gain a lot of experience in a short period of time. And because they work daily with the same cast of characters, they learn the personalities (and prejudices) of the judges, prosecutors, and local law enforcement officers—important information to know when assessing a case and conducting a trial.


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