If you stand accused of committing a crime, you may be wondering exactly how you're going to address the situation. Before you get too involved with a case, here are some of the things you should know about defending yourself against misdemeanor or felony charges.
The Early Stages Matter Greatly
From the perspective of a criminal defense lawyer, the best time to try to get a client off the hook is usually when the prosecution's case is coming together. There are often several initial hearings for a defendant. At the first one, basic issues are handled, such as reading the charges to the defendant, setting bail and arranging court dates.
If you intend to mount a defense or need to time to consider your options, you'll want to plead "not guilty" during this hearing. You will have the option of entering a guilty plea at a later date if you feel the case against you has become overwhelming.
Once these matters have been addressed, subsequent hearings will cover what is known as discovery. Under U.S. law, you have the right to see what the prosecution has before you go into court. This will give you a better sense of what the case is and how you might defend yourself.
As the discovery process moves ahead, a criminal defense lawyer services firm can help a client raise questions about the evidence. Let's say an unregistered gun was discovered in your car as the result of what you feel was an illegal search. This can be brought to the court's attention, and the judge will rule on whether the action was bad enough that the evidence shouldn't be allowed.
Seeking a Dismissal
A criminal defense lawyer has had a good look at the case against you. They've seen the evidence from discovery, and they feel the case is so fundamentally flawed that it should be thrown out. This is the time to ask the court to dismiss the charges. The court will weigh the merits of the case and decide whether the prosecution may move forward with charges.
Negotiate, Plead Guilty or Go to Trial
If a motion to dismiss hasn't prevailed, you're down to these three options. You may simply plead guilty to the charges and ask the court for leniency. If the prosecution has offered a reduced sentence, you can take it. Or you can move forward with a trial.