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Top 10 Criminal Law FAQs

In this day and age, it is not that difficult to end up on the wrong side of the law. False accusations, an error in judgment or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time could lead to criminal charges and the threat of penalties against you.

If you have been charged with a crime, you probably have many questions about criminal justice procedure, what you are required to do, your rights as a defendant and most importantly, how to present the best possible defense of your case.

At Cafferty Law Office, S.C., our priorities are to keep you out of jail and help you to avoid a conviction on your record if at all possible.

Here are answers to questions commonly asked by people who face criminal charges.

1.      Do I really need a lawyer, or can I represent myself?

“The man who represents himself has a fool for a client” is an adage with a solid basis in truth. Criminal law is a highly specialized area, and even attorneys do not typically represent themselves when charged with any crime. The best thing to do if you are facing criminal charges is to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer with a proven record of success. Bear in mind that you have a lot at stake when you are charged with a crime. Working with an attorney who knows the court system and has handled cases like yours in the past could increase your chances for the best resolution.

2.      Can I be convicted of a drug crime if no drugs were found on my person?

Yes, it is possible to be charged and convicted of a crime for drugs that were not found on your person. Under the “doctrine of constructive possession” (as opposed to actual possession), an individual who knew where drugs were located and had the intention of exerting physical control over them in the future (such as smoking, consuming or transporting them) may be charged with a drug crime. It is up to the prosecution to prove that the knowledge and intention existed and up to your defense lawyer to aggressively dispute any false allegations.

3.      The police want to talk to me about a crime. Should I talk to them?

Whether you are being investigated in a criminal case or have already been arrested and charged, it is important to remember these two basic rights: the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Politely inform the police that you would like to have an attorney present during any discussion and then consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. If you are a suspect or are facing criminal charges, law enforcement is not your friend, and anything you say to them can and will be used against you.

4.      I have been charged with a misdemeanor. Should I just plead guilty?

The answer is absolutely not. Depending on the crime, a misdemeanor could carry heavy penalties, including jail time. A criminal record could have a negative impact on your future prospects for employment, housing, education and relationships. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony crime, it is important to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights.

5.      The police did not read me my rights. Does that mean my charges will be thrown out?

That depends on the circumstances. Police do not have to read you your Miranda rights if you are not in custody and they do not interrogate or question you. However, the law does require police officers to inform you of your Miranda rights before questioning or interrogation begins if you are in custody. Failure to do so would be a violation by the police of your constitutional rights. It would give your attorney cause to file a motion to suppress evidence with the court. If the motion was granted, any statement or confession you made after your arrest could be inadmissible in court and invalid as evidence against you.

6.      If I talk to you about my case, will you tell anyone what I say?

Conversations about a case between a client and lawyer are protected under attorney-client privilege. That means that anything you tell attorney Patrick Cafferty will be confidential. You can feel free to speak openly about the circumstances of your case, both during your free consultation and when you retain our firm to represent you.

7.      How do plea bargains work?

Plea bargains are often negotiated between the prosecuting attorney and the defense lawyer. Depending on the facts and evidence in your case, the prosecutor may offer you the option of pleading guilty to a lesser charge with a lighter sentence. That way you would avoid a trial and the possibility of conviction of the original charge. If the prosecution offers a plea bargain, your attorney can advise you and discuss your options, based on the strength of the case, your wishes and other factors.

8.      I was convicted of some minor crimes a long time ago. Will they count against me now?

That depends on the crimes involved and how long ago they occurred. Prior convictions are a significant factor in Wisconsin OWI cases. Second, third or fourth OWI convictions carry mandatory jail time, and a fifth arrest is filed as a felony. A prior conviction for possession of certain controlled substances can cause a second and any subsequent offense to be charged as a felony and carry penalties that are more severe.

9.      What will it cost me to hire you?

We offer a free consultation to prospective clients. As fees vary from case to case, we can discuss our fee arrangement for your particular case at that initial meeting. Many criminal charges carry heavy fines in addition to other penalties such as prison time. A criminal record can have a negative impact on future employment and income and the ability to retain a professional license. Attorney Patrick Cafferty has been practicing criminal defense since 1994 and has a history of success for his clients. Retaining our firm to represent you may be the most cost-effective decision you could make.

10. What information should I bring to my first consultation with you?

Bring any documents you have received relating to your arrest and criminal charges. Write down any questions you need to ask your attorney and bring them along, too. Try to have the sequence of events and facts of your case clear in your mind, and make sure to share all relevant information. The consultation will be covered by attorney-client privilege, and the more Attorney Cafferty knows about your situation, the better he can advise and represent you.

Source:

Wall Street Journal: As Criminal Laws Proliferate, More Are Ensnared