Criminal Defense FAQ's

1.How can I get a court to appoint a lawyer for me?
If you are desirous of having the courts appoint you an attorney, there are certain criteria that you typically have to meet. Some courts will allow you to have a court appointed lawyer without qualification and some require that you show proof of your inability to afford counsel.

2.Do I need a lawyer at my arraignment?
Most cases do not require you to have a lawyer at your arraignment. However, you should definitely have had spoken to a lawyer before you are required to enter your plea. Even if you don't have an attorney present at your arraignment, the courts will proceed in giving you a formal account of your charges.

3.How can I find a private defense lawyer?
If you are in need of private counsel, you may be to confide in the opinion of either someone that you respect or trust, or someone that has had experience in dealing with legal issues. Moreover, there are several resources that you can use to find adequate representation. The State Bar is an excellent resource to find lawyers.

4.What is a private lawyer likely to cost?
There are no clear cut answers to the amount that a lawyer may charge. Many experienced lawyers consider there service to be of such a value to their clients that they charge anywhere from $100.00 to $1000.00 per hour. There are other lawyers that charge by either the complexity or the severity of your case.

5.Should I represent myself in a criminal case?
Most definitely not. Espescially when facing potential jail time. There are many reasons why you should not represent yourself in a criminal defense case. However, the most important reason is for experience. The qualifications required to accurately defend one self in court are considerable. Even experienced lawyers rely upon other lawyers to represent them in court matters.

6.Can I change lawyers if I am unhappy with the one that is currently representing me?
If the lawyer that you have representing you is appointed by the courts or is a public defender, then it may be difficult to request a new lawyer without a substantial reason. However, if you have a private attorney and are not satisfied with their work, then you may request a new lawyer be placed on your case and find a new one.

7.Do the police have to read me my Miranda rights?
There is no requirement for the police to read you your rights. However, failure to do so will make anything that they ask you regarding your case null and void and inadmissible in the eyes of the courts. It doesn't matter where the police interrogate you either, if they haven't read you your rights, then whatever you tell them is not allowed in to court records as evidence.

8.When do the police need a warrant to make an arrest?
Only when the police have a significant enough belief to ascertain probable cause can they execute an arrest without an arrest warrant. There are however extenuating circumstances that may give the officers right to execute and arrest without a warrant. Each state has their own rules regarding the acceptance of warrant execution.

9.How should I assert my right to remain silent if the police decide to question me?
You can simply state to the authorities that you are pleading your fifth amendment right to remain silent. You are allowed to remain silent so the police have no right to make you tell them anything that they ask you. If you are harassed by the police after informing them that you are not speaking without counsel, you may be able to have the case dismissed on a violation of your civil rights.

10.How difficult can the police become when they are questioning a possible suspect?
If you voluntarily offer answers to police questions then that information is admissible in a court of law. If is important to note that the authorities intend to build their case against you when they are questioning you. The police are not attempting to help you by asking you questions even though they make become increasingly friendly when asking you for information.

11.If you I am charged with a crime can I be forced to provide physical examples?
Yes you can. Though many people feel that the involuntary usage of bodily and physical examples by the authorities are a violation of our civil rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Fifth amendment is regarding communication and does not include physical samples.

12.If I was pulled over and forced to answer questions at a roadblock, is this legal?
If there was a roadblock created to pull over random vehicles and not intentionally setup to single out one vehicle, then the answer is yes. Without probable cause to believe that you may broken the law, there is not a just cause for the police to stop you and ask questions that are not in line with you constitutional rights.

13.Wouldn't longer sentences mean less overall crime?
The length of sentencing may not necessarily reduce the amount of crime. There are many factors that contribute to the level of criminal activity in the country. Unemployment, poverty and educational issues play a big role in the level of criminal activity in the U.S. as well.

14.Is there a way to punish a criminal before he actually commits the crime he is planning?
In some cases there is. For instance, if a person has knowing fully and willingly proposed or conspired to commit a crime, then the courts may find enough evidence to charge that person with a case of conspiracy. However, there must be sufficient evidence for this courts to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the suspect intended to carry out a criminal offense.

15.Are all illegal drugs treated the same way when it refers to punishment?
No, there are classifications of the different drugs based on the drugs scheduling. The offense level is determined by the classification of the illegal substance that the dealer was in possession of. For the higher classification drugs, the sentencing can be quite severe and for some of the lower classification the sentencing may not even require jail time in some states.

16.Can a person by charged with DUI for only one drink?
If the person that is suspected of DUI has a blood alcohol level that is above the states legal limit, (typically 0.8 percent) with only one drink, then yes. DUI is determined by the level of alcohol in the blood stream, not the amount of drinks one consumes.

17.How does a district attorney decide which criminals to charge?
There are several factors that a district attorney will consider before moving towards a formal charge. The district attorney is required to determine whether there were any laws broken in the development of the case against the alleged criminal and also to ascertain whether the case is based on solid evidence.

18.Is driving over the speed limit a crime?
Technically, driving over the speed limit is a crime. Yet there are typically only charges brought about for speeding when the violation has exceeded aggravated levels. For instance, in many states a driver may be arrested and charged if they were found driving in excess of 100 mph. In other states this may not necessarily be so.

19.Can only businesspersons be charged with white collar crimes?
No. The term "White Collar Crime" was coined as a phrase to describe the class of criminal that usually commits a fraudulent offense. Today, there are many accounts of people from all walks of life committing fraudulent offenses from bank fraud to embezzlement.

20.Is rape the same as sexual assault?
In the eyes of the law, yes. Though there are different levels of severity which coincide with the type of sexual act, whether there was violence involved, if the act was committed in conjunction with a consensual act or other pertinent factors such as whether the two parties were married or not, have a large say in the manner in which the courts consider the case.

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