Facing any kind of criminal charge can be difficult to manage. However, if a person is arrested and charged with a crime in a state that is not their permanent residence, it might be even more difficult to search for an attorney and mount an adequate defense. If you are facing charges in another state, it is important to familiarize yourself with this process and how to find a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney located in that area to help you handle your case.
The state where the alleged crime occurred is the state that has jurisdiction to prosecute the offense. For example, if you live in California but you are arrested for drunk driving in Florida, Florida has the right to prosecute you for that criminal offense under Florida law.
Challenging a legal case in another state presents a number of obstacles. If you wish to participate in the police investigation and give the police information, sticking around to provide that evidence may be a challenge. Of course, most criminal defense attorneys will advise you to contact an attorney first before answering any questions or giving any information to police or the prosecutor that may implicate you in crimes or result in additional charges. An attorney can advise you of your rights before you agree to cooperate.
Court appearances can also provide for some serious logistical issues for your defense. The process of going through the criminal court system often requires the defendant to appear in person before the court a number of times. It can be costly to travel between states frequently and you may run into some substantial conflicts between your court obligations in the state you have been charged in and your life back home.
After being charged with a crime in a state other than your own, returning home after your arrest may not be as simple as you think. You cannot simply return home and ignore the charges pending against you. In fact, some states allow for a longer time period in which to charge or prosecute the crime if you try to avoid being prosecuted by returning to your home state.
If you do return to your home state in an attempt to avoid prosecution after being charged with a crime, the Constitution requires states and territories within the United States to produce suspects at the request of another state. This is commonly referred to as extradition.
The severity of your criminal charges can be a substantial factor in determining your out-of-state criminal process. Most states have two broad categories to classify criminal offenses: felonies for more serious or violent offenses, and misdemeanors for less serious offenses. Some states have an even lower level of classification, commonly referred to as a violation or an infraction, generally for offenses stemming from traffic or parking tickets.
Every state uses their own specific classification system, and some break down these categories even further into degrees or classes. Each classification is treated differently, having a different process and associated penalties. This makes it imperative that you find an experienced lawyer in the state you have pending criminal charges to assist you. A local, experienced criminal defense attorney will understand the law as it applies to your case and be able to protect your rights and put together the strongest possible criminal defense. They will also understand the local criminal justice system and likely be familiar with the prosecutor trying your case.
Bail is almost always required for out-of-state defendants being charged with a felony offense. Once you pay your bail and you appear as required by your bail, most courts refund the bail amount paid. By not appearing at your next court proceeding as required, you may face being arrested, held in state custody pending your trial, and may not receive your bail back from the court. So, you may be able to leave the state, but you will have to make your court appearances to effectively defend against your criminal charges. A defense attorney familiar with the local legal system will be able to advise you about whether you can or should leave the state, given your individual circumstances.
If you are convicted of a felony in another state, this charge might follow you in the future and may have implications for future employment or other legal proceedings. Once you are convicted of a crime, it typically becomes part of the public record in that state and anyone searching for it may find your criminal history. Working with an attorney to assist you with presenting a strong defense can help you avoid any unwanted complications a conviction like this may pose on your future.
Out of state residents facing misdemeanor charges have the option to be represented by a local attorney who may be able to appear on behalf of the defendant in any criminal proceedings or hearing in front of the judge. This means you may not have to incur all of the expenses of traveling back and forth between states to defend yourself in your legal case. If you choose to hire an attorney to appear for you, it is crucial that you find someone whom you trust and communicate with regularly so you stay up to date with your charges.
Commonly, violations or infractions like speeding or parking tickets can be paid by mail and may not require any more interaction. However, you may wish to consult with a local attorney that is familiar with the rules and law of the jurisdiction. In some instances, paying these tickets constitutes a guilty plea and could result in future implications for your driver’s license. Other times, you may not be guilty of the offense you received and incident for and a local attorney can help you handle this violation and may appear in court on your behalf.
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.