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What Happens When You Are Charged with a Crime? — Part II

In my last post, I wrote about the three options you have when you are charged with a crime. In this article, we’ll look at what happens when you select an attorney.

Your Attorney and the DA Will Meet

At some point after you’ve selected an attorney (whether you choose a public defender or you hire a private attorney), the DA and your attorney will meet to discuss the case. Prior to that, you will give a detailed version of the facts to your attorney. [Your memory doesn’t get better, so it’s a good idea to write a detailed summary of the events right away.] As recited earlier, your attorney will also get all of the ”discovery” in the case, e.g., police reports, body cams, 911 call, witness statements, etc.

I tell my clients that this part is like the game show Let’s Make a Deal. When you are in the audience of that show, you wear a goofy costume and they give you money, and you choose whether to keep your money or trade it in for whatever is concealed behind door one, two or three.

It’s a risk: sometimes door one will have a pile of horse manure, or door two will have a new car. Are you willing to risk it?

In your criminal case, we’re playing the same game but, instead of money, you have your constitutional rights:

  1. You have the right to an attorney.
  2. You have the right to a trial to a judge or a jury.
  3. You have the right to make the prosecution prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
  4. You have the right to force the prosecution to bring their witnesses to the trial and to be subject to cross-examination.
  5. You have the right to call your own witnesses, and, if they won’t appear voluntarily, you can subpoena and force them to appear.
  6. You have the right to testify, or the right to remain silent. This means you never have to walk into Court and have the D.A. call you as his/her first witness. Many people are worried that if they remain silent, the jury will think, “If he/she were innocent, he/she would testify and tell us what happened.” The judge will always tell the jury that making an assumption like that is not allowed. No inferences can be drawn from a defendant remaining silent.
  7. You have a right to affirmative defenses.
  8. You have a right to appeal to a higher Court if you feel you didn’t receive a fair ruling.

The DA Will Offer a Deal

At this point, the DA will offer a deal that he or she considers fair, and you get to decide whether you want to accept it or whether you want to proceed with litigation.

Dismissing the case entirely is the best possible deal that the DA could offer. Getting a deferred sentence, where you plead guilty with the understanding that if you comply while on probation the charge will be dismissed, is another good option. Your attorney will go back and forth with the DA for a while until you reach an agreement.

If no agreement can be met, then the lawyer will play what I call “the lawyer game,” and begin filing motions.

This is where the attorney works to exclude evidence from the trial. A good example of this is, for instance, if a police officer began questioning you while you are in custody without reading your Miranda rights (telling you that you have the right to remain silent). If your Miranda rights aren’t read and you say something incriminating, it’s likely that the judge will agree to exclude anything that you said. This is important for trial because any statements you made at that point will not be presented as evidence to the jury.

It is a way of ensuring that the rights of private citizens are upheld.

Once motions are heard, your attorney will engage in another round of negotiations with the DA. If the DA has seen that you successfully excluded key evidence, and his or her case is significantly weakened as a result, it’s very likely that you’ll get a better offer from the DA.

Now you once again have to decide: do you want to take the new deal, or go to trial and hope that a jury doesn’t find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

Estimating the Cost of a Criminal Case

Most attorneys, including yours truly, work on an hourly rate. This effectively means that you will decide how expensive your case is: if you take the first offer the DA makes, it will cost less than if you choose to have a motions hearing because your lawyer has less work to do.

If you go to trial, it will be even more expensive. So the client ultimately decides how much the whole thing will cost.

Every Criminal Case is Different

Remember: every situation is different and there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to the outcome of your particular situation. Some important questions to ask yourself are:

  • What is my tolerance for risk? Some clients I work with think they’ll have a panic attack simply walking into the Courthouse, while others are willing to risk it all to try and get a better result than the D.A.’s offer.
  • How strong are your principles? Most people don’t have unlimited funds to spend in legal fees. Balance your desired outcome with what feels financially realistic for you and your family.

All that said, I never tell my clients what to do. Ultimately, you are the one who will have to face the consequences, so it must be your decision.

If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s important that you have professional legal guidance on your side. Call our office today at 303-449-1873 to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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