If you are charged with a crime, it is very important that you obtain the services of a Criminal Defense Attorney to protect your rights. View qualified Criminal Defense Law Firms in your area to find Criminal Defense Lawyers.
A crime is, of course, a violation of the law. Crimes are generally divided into two levels:
- Misdemeanors (less serious offenses that often do not result in jail time).
- Felonies (more serious charges, where convictions frequently do carry prison sentences).
Typically, if you are accused of a crime and later charged, several steps occur:
- Investigation (which may include a search of you or your property, and seizure of evidence)
- Arrest (where the police take you into custody, either with an arrest warrant, probable cause or by witnessing the crime)
- Arraignment (the defendant appears before the judge in court, hears the charges and enters a plea)
- Develop the defense (where you and your attorney examine the evidence, prepare your witnesses and develop other evidence to challenge the State’s case)
- Trial (where the State must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt)
- Appeal (if you are convicted, you may appeal and challenge the evidence, verdict and conduct of the trial)
Building the Defense
If the police acted improperly, you may challenge the evidence, including:
- Unlawful search and seizure. If you did not consent to the search, there was no warrant, no probable cause, or a problem with a search warrant, the evidence improperly seized may be excluded from your case.
- Miranda rights. If the police failed to inform you of your rights: “to remain silent,” to have an attorney present and to have one appointed if you cannot afford it, you may be able to exclude any statements you made while detained.
You can also have other “evidence” and testimony excluded, including:
- Polygraph (lie detector) results are generally inadmissible.
- Privileged communications, which in most states include conversations between you and your spouse, your doctor, your attorney, and your priest, cannot be divulged without your permission.
Common defense evidence includes:
Attacks on the credibility of the State’s witnesses.
Expert witness testimony expressing an opinion on the evidence
Testimony about your good character (although then the prosecutor can use testimony of your bad character).
Challenging the evidence and its relationship to you.
In addition to the rights listed above, you have others, including:
- The State must provide you with exculpatory evidence if it has it.
- Except in rare circumstances, you have the right to know the identity of witnesses and to question them.
- Generally, you have the right to a jury trial, and to a speedy trial (although “speedy” varies from state to state).
If the verdict (decision) is not guilty, you are acquitted and the process stops. Generally, the State cannot appeal the lack of conviction because of the double jeopardy rule.
If the verdict is guilty, you may appeal the decision and the sentence. The prosecution may appeal the sentence.
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