If you've been accused of a crime, you're likely facing a lot of uncertainties. Are there any witnesses who could testify on your behalf? What would the jail sentence be if you were convicted of the charges? A criminal defense attorney can answer all your questions and guide you through the legal process.
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The stakes cannot be more serious when facing a criminal charge. A criminal conviction can result in prison time and/or lengthy probation, not to mention exorbitant fines and court costs. The anxiety and uncertainty that come with being accused of a crime are overwhelming. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your freedom, family, and financial security. At Spalding Law LLC, we represent individuals accused of both misdemeanor and felony offenses, including OWIs, drug and alcohol offenses (e.g., public intoxication, illegal consumption, possession of marijuana, etc.), fraud, theft and conversion, assault and battery, etc. We also handle juvenile matters, probation violations, infractions, sentence modifications, as well as petitions for post-conviction relief and petitions to restrict access to criminal records. Criminal cases are very much different than civil proceedings. While each Indiana County has its own local rules of criminal procedure, the majority of criminal cases follow a similar pattern:
Individuals accused of crimes are afforded several invaluable rights from the United States and Indiana Constitutions. It is imperative to ensure that these constitutional rights are protected in a criminal case. Among these rights include the following:
Right to be Presumed Not Guilty. While a prosecutor need only show probable cause to file charges against individual, the prosecutor must prove the case "beyond a reasonable doubt" to sustain a conviction. Unlike the "preponderance of the evidence" burden applicable in civil cases, "beyond a reasonable doubt" is the highest burden of proof that the law can impose upon a party. Importantly, "not guilty" is not the same thing as innocent.
Right to Remain Silent. No one can force an individual to give testimonial evidence. You do not have to make comments, give statements, or even testify in a criminal case against you. If accused of a crime and detained or arrested, you must be advised of your Miranda rights before a police officer can question you. However, Miranda advisements generally do not apply if you volunteer information without being interrogated or are not in what a reasonable person would believe is police custody at the time of the questioning.
Right to a Jury Trial. Judges convict criminal defendants fare more often that juries. For good reason, many people perceive the judge to be on the same side as the prosecutor. Unlike many cynical judges, a jury of your peers is more likely to strictly consider whether the prosecutor has proved the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
Right to be Free from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures. Any search by the police without a warrant is generally invalid unless the search falls into a recognized exception (e.g., consent searches, "knock and talk" searches, weapons searches, a search incident to an arrest, plain view searches, etc.). With that said, a criminal defendant must challenge the searches that result in incriminating evidence for these constitutional rights to apply
Right to Know the Charges Against You. A criminal defendant is not only entitled to be told the specific charges that have been filed against him or her, he or she is also permitted to "discover" the prosecutor's complete file on the case. This includes police and investigative reports, witness statements, video or audio recordings, scientific tests, or any other relevant evidence, including exculpatory evidence that tends to show that the defendant did not commit the alleged crime.
Right to Appeal a Final Judgment. A criminal defendant has the right to appeal a conviction for any number of reasons, including the sufficiency of the evidence that led to a guilty verdict, the effectiveness of his or her lawyer, erroneous and prejudicial evidentiary rulings made by the judge, or any other matter that may have violated the defendant's due process.
After an individual has been arrested and taken into custody, he or she will go through the booking process. This involves fingerprinting, background checks, confiscation of property, and then confinement in a county jail. A determination will then be made about their eligibility to be released from jail, also known as bail. The amount of bail is usually set forth in a local county bail schedule. Many jurisdictions (including Monroe County) require both a surety bond (posted by a bondsman who usually charges a 10% non-refundable fee) and a refundable cash bond paid directly to the court. After the bail process, the next step in a criminal law case is the arraignment or initial hearing. This is the first step that occurs in the courtroom. The defendant will appear before a judge and be read the charges filed against him or her and asked how he or she pleads. The judge may reduce the amount of bail and/or appoint the defendant a public defender.
Most criminal cases are resolved prior to trial. Going to trial can take months or even years and the results are unpredictable. A plea agreement allows the defendant to control the outcome of the case. The defendant in most cases will receive a lighter sentence for a less-severe charge. For first time offenders, alternative sentences and resolutions can often be arranged, including diversion programs, substance abuse programs, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and community service. By resolving a case in such ways, criminal defendants are often able to keep the charge and/or conviction off his or her criminal history.
A criminal defense attorney can provide invaluable counsel and advice during every phase of a criminal case, not just in courtroom proceedings. He or she should be well versed in state and federal law, and should be familiar with the local court rules and customs. Among other things, a criminal defense attorney can:
Criminal defense attorneys are paid hourly or on a flat fee basis. Clients are often asked to pay a retainer when they hire an attorney by the hour. At Spalding Law LLC, most of our criminal clients pay a flat fee that varies according to the number and severity of charges pending against them. If you have been charged with a crime, contact us to learn more about your rights and how we can help. For a free consultation with an attorney at Spalding Law LLC, call us at (812) 339-4433 or contact us online.