He is Board Certified by the New Mexico Board of Legal Specialization as a Trial Specialist in Criminal Law and is Board Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy as a Diplomate and Trial Advocate in Criminal Law.
Additionally, Mr. Serna is the first New Mexico lawyer to be named a Founding Member of the National College For DUI Defense, Summer Programs at Harvard Law School.
About Criminal Law
When a society and its government deem that certain behavior or conduct is dangerous to citizens, or collectively damaging to society, such conduct is labeled a "criminal" and is made punishable by sanctions, such as fines and imprisonment. Laws categorized under Criminal Penal Codes are established by Federal, state and local legislators. These laws make certain behavior among citizens illegal and punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. Criminal statutes describe the type of conduct that has been deemed a crime, the mindset or intent required, and in some instances, the proper punishment. In order to be found guilty of a criminal offense, a government agency ("the prosecution") must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant engaged in criminal activity that was intentional and deliberate.
Criminal Law FAQS
If I am arrested, should I hire an attorney?
You may be entitled to a Court Appointed Attorney at Public expense if you qualify as an indigent person. An indigent person is one who cannot hire an attorney without causing substantial hardship to himself/herself or dependent family. If you have been charged with a crime, you may complete an Affidavit of Indigence and Request for Court Appointed Counsel at your first court appearance. If you qualify, an attorney will be appointed for you. If you are convicted of a crime, the court may require you to repay some or all of the cost of your defense if it determines you are able.
Can I be arrested for questioning?
No. Police can request that you accompany them to a police station for questioning, but you are not required to go unless you have been arrested for an offense. It is not advisable to speak with the police until you have first spoken with your attorney. You should ask for a lawyer or independent witness to be present during questioning.
What is bail?
Bail is money or other property that is deposited with the court to ensure that the person accused will return to court when he or she is required to do so. If the defendant returns to court as required, the bail will be returned at the end of the case, even if the defendant is ultimately convicted. However, if the defendant does not come to court when required, or violates his or her bail conditions, the bail will be forfeited to the court and will not be returned.
What happens at a bail hearing?
The accused is brought before a magistrate or judge when an arrest happens for a violation of a criminal law. The magistrate or judge will conduct a pre-trial bail hearing resulting in four possible results:
- Recognizance - This is the defendant`s written promise to appear in court on the date set and abide by the terms set by the magistrate or judge. No monetary pledge, cash deposit, or security by property or professional bondsman is required.
- Unsecured Bond - This release pending court appearance is based on the defendant’s written agreement to appear in court on the date set and abide by the conditions set by the magistrate or judge. It is backed by an agreement by the defendant to forfeit money to the court if she or he does not appear in court on the date set.
- Secured Bond - This is secured by either a cash deposit, a pledge of real or personal property, or a pledge by a third party that the defendant will appear in court on the date set and abide by the conditions of the release. The judge may forfeit any type of security in the event the defendant does not appear in court on the date set.
- Ineligible for Bail - The defendant is denied a release pending court appearance.
The bail decision may be appealed to a judge who will re-examine the evidence. A violation of any agreement of release pending court appearance could result in the issuance of an "Order to Show Cause" why the release should not be revoked.
What is a plea bargain?
Settling a criminal case is usually called a plea bargain. It means that the prosecution and the defense come to an agreement to resolve the case. The case can be settled at several points during the process, from before it is charged- all the way to trials doorstep. Usually, however, the best bargain can be obtained earlier rather than later in the process. And in many cases, it is a question that should be analyzed immediately so that good opportunities to settlement aren’t given up because of pride or inattention.