We you recently arrested and charged with a criminal offense or are you the loved one of someone who was? If so, and this is your first exposure to the criminal justice system, you are undoubtedly feeling overwhelmed and concerned about the outcome of the case. After all, your knowledge of the criminal prosecution process is probably limited to what you have gleaned from watching television. While some shows do a decent job of portraying the inner workings of the American criminal justice system, most do not. For answers to specific questions regarding your case you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney; however, to help you feel a little less intimidated by your situation, a Smyrna criminal defense attorney has provided answers to five common questions.
- What are some of the most important rights I have as an accused? The U.S. Constitution guarantees a number of rights and privileges to anyone who has been accused of a criminal offense. Among the most important of those are:
- The right to remain silent.
- The right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
- The right to an attorney.
- The right to a trial by jury.
- The right to bail.
- The right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against you.
- Do I have to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent me? There is no law or rule that requires you to hire an attorney if you have been charged with a criminal offense; however, there are a number of reasons why you should do so. If you elect to represent yourself, the judge will expect you to know the rules and procedures just as if you were an attorney. You will be at a disadvantage because you do not know the prosecutors, the procedures, or the law. You may also end up accepting a plea agreement that is not in your best interest because you do not have the experience negotiating plea agreements that an attorney has and, finally, if your case ends up going to trial, you don’t have the knowledge or experience that a criminal defense attorney has – both of which are necessary to win at trial.
- What should I expect to happen at my first court appearance? Your first court appearance is referred to as an arraignment, or initial hearing. The judge will read the charges against you and ask you if you understand the charges. This is not the time to discuss the validity of the charges. The judge is only required to make sure you understand what the charges are. You will also enter a plea of not guilty and set the next date for your case. If you are in custody, and you are already represented by an attorney, the judge may allow your attorney to discuss lowering your bond if it is too high for you to post. If you are not already represented by an attorney, the judge will likely discuss your plans to retain an attorney as well.
- Will my case go to trial? There is no way to know, with any degree of certainty, if a case will go to trial without discussing the details with an attorney one on one. If, however, you maintain your innocence and will not agree to a guilty plea agreement, your case will obviously go to trial. Also, if you are willing to admit your guilt, but the prosecuting attorney will not offer an acceptable plea agreement, your case will have to be decided at trial.
- If the police officer never read me my rights can my attorney get the charges dismissed? Probably the most common misconception defendants have is that if the police fail to read someone their rights, the entire case goes away. Unfortunately, that is not the case. A police officer is only required to red you your rights if two conditions are met. First, you must be in custody already. Second, the officer must plan to question you. Furthermore, if a police officer violates the requirement, the remedy is not to dismiss the entire case. Instead, anything you said may be ruled inadmissible at trial if the officer failed to inform you of your rights before questioning you.
If you have been accused of a criminal offense, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Smyrna criminal defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.