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- What’s the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?
- What Happens After You Are Charged With a Crime?
- How Do I Defend Myself Against Criminal Charges?
- What Are My Rights?
- How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Our legal system is divided into two types of law: civil and criminal. In a civil case, a person brings a lawsuit against another person or business, usually to recover money damages. In criminal cases, the government brings legal action against a person believed to have committed a crime. The punishment in a criminal case can be as minor as a small fine, or as severe as prison time or even death.
What’s the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?
Most crimes are categorized as either felonies or misdemeanors. A felony is the most serious type of crime and is usually punishable by imprisonment for more than a year. In some states, certain felonies are punishable by death.
Less serious offenses are often misdemeanors. The punishment is usually less than a year in prison, and an infraction is a minor violation that generally results in a citation or fine rather than jail time.
What Happens After You Are Charged with a Crime?
Criminal procedure varies depending on the state or court in which the person is charged. A criminal case is typically initiated either by a prosecutor filing a criminal complaint or through a grand jury indictment.
Generally speaking, someone can expect their case to proceed as follows:
- The defendant is arrested or a summons to appear is issued
- Charges filed or grand jury indicts
- Initial appearance and bond determination
- Plea bargaining process between prosecutor and defense attorney
- Motions filed, hearings held
- Jury or bench trial
- Verdict handed down
- Sentencing if the defendant is found guilty or if they plead guilty
- Post-conviction appeals
If the defendant is convicted, they are sentenced according to sentencing guidelines and the discretion of the judge. The sentence may include prison time, fines, probation, drug or mental health treatment, or some other punishment created by the judge.
How Do I Defend Myself Against Criminal Charges?
Defendants are generally not required to prove anything at trial. Because a conviction can lead to a loss of freedom, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person committed the crime. This is the highest burden of proof in American law.
Defense in a criminal case usually involves poking holes in the government’s evidence, identifying constitutional problems, and negotiating with prosecutors.
What Are My Rights?
The U.S. Constitution provides several protections for those accused of a crime. The 4th Amendment protects against unreasonable searches by police.
Many of an accused person’s constitutional rights are included in the “Miranda warning,” which many people have heard on television or in encounters with police:
- Right to remain silent
- Right to an attorney
- Right to a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford to hire one
Criminal defendants also have the right to “due process,” which means the government must follow specific rules during a criminal case. The state must allow a person to defend themselves before it can take away their liberty, property, etc.
Due process encompasses:
- Right to be informed of the nature of the charges
- Right to confront/cross-examine the government’s witnesses
- Right to a trial
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
If you’re being accused of a crime, there is a lot at stake. You’ll need someone on your side to protect your rights. Defense attorneys know the ins and outs of the criminal justice system and can help by:
- Explaining the charges against you
- Developing defense strategies
- Review evidence for constitutional rights violations
- Negotiating plea bargains with the prosecution
- Filing necessary motions with the court
Being charged with a crime is a serious issue, and having a dedicated defense attorney can make a huge difference in the outcome.
Speak With an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today
An arrest and conviction can change everything. Fines or time in jail are the immediate concern, but a conviction will also mean a criminal record that can make it harder to find a job and housing for years to come. If you are arrested or learn you are under investigation, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and help you determine the best way to proceed with mounting a defense.
Additional Criminal Defense Articles
- Getting Arrested: Documents Your Attorney Will Need
- Violating a Restraining Order
- What To Do If You’re Arrested
- How to Obtain a Court-Appointed Defense Lawyer
- What You Need to Know About Probable Cause
- Getting Out of Jail after You Have Been Arrested
- When Must the Police Read Me My Miranda Rights?
- Initial Consultation With a Criminal Defense Attorney or a Public Defender
- Criminal Defense: Classification of Crimes
- Murder v. Manslaughter
- Avoiding a Criminal Record
- Can Police Search My Car Without a Warrant?
- What Is a Plea Bargain?
- What to Do If Police Use Excessive Force
- Sentencing Guidelines: Fair Sentences or a Denial of Trial by Jury?
- How Do You Prove Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity?
- Your Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination
- What Is Assault?
- How the False Testimony of Snitches Results in Wrongful Convictions
- What Is Witness Misidentification?
- Search and Seizure Laws by State
- What Is Bail?
- Criminal Statutes of Limitations: Time Limits for State Charges
- Prosecutorial Misconduct Leading to Wrongful Convictions
- How Bad Lawyering Can Result in Wrongful Convictions
- Violating Probation
- What Happens When You Face Out of State Criminal Charges?
- What Is Double Jeopardy?
- What Is the National Sex Offender Registry?
- The Truth About Perjury
- Bail For Beginners
- Probable Cause to Arrest Someone
- When Does Discipline Become Abuse?
- Are Lie Detector Tests Admissible in Court?
- Defense Strategies in Criminal Cases
- Resisting Arrest
- The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine
- What Is a Defense Attorney?
- Criminal Law Basics
- If I Am Arrested, Should I Hire an Attorney?
- What Happens If You Violate Probation?
- What Does ‘Lesser Included Offense’ Mean in Criminal Law?
- What Is Blackstone’s Formulation in Criminal Law?
- The Differences Between Bond and Bail
- What Happens When You Dine and Dash?
- Is the Presumption of Innocence in the Constitution?
- Can You Go to College with a Felony?
- Will a Criminal Record Prevent You From Getting a Mortgage?
- Can You Live with a Felon if You Own a Firearm?
- How Can You Be Charged As An Accomplice To A Crime?
- What Happens When the Police Seize Money, Drugs, or Cars
- What Happens If a Juror Falls Asleep in a Trial?
- What Is Parole?
- What Does It Mean If You Are An ‘Accessory After the Fact?’
- How Long Do Police Have to File Criminal Charges?
- What is a Public Nuisance?
- What To Do When Accused of a Crime You Didn’t Commit
- Is It Illegal To Burn the American Flag?
- Is It Illegal To Sleep in Your Car?
- What is a Probation Violation?
- What Is a Victimless Crime?
- Bail Bonds Definition
- Affidavit Definition
- Bail Definition
- Larceny Definition
- Plea Bargain Definition
- Plea Deal Definition
- Public Intoxication Definition
- Expungement Definition
- Arrest Definition
- Accused Definition
- What Is Homicide?
- Acquittal Definition
- Parole Definition
- Arraignment Definition
- Embezzlement Definition
- What Are Some Examples of Victimless Crimes?
- White-Collar Crime Definition
- How Long Can You Go to Jail for Violating Probation or Parole?
- Wiretapping: Is It Legal to Record Phone Calls?
- Legal Implications of Criminal Threats and Intimidation