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Criminal Defense Questions

The information below is applicable to many people, but not everyone. Nothing contained on this page is legal advice in your particular circumstance. For advice specific to your case, call Centrone & Shrader, PLLC at (813) 360-1529 for a free consultation with an attorney. We will fight for your rights.

Being arrested raises a thousand questions, but you won’t find any answers from the prosecutors or the judge. You need an attorney to help guide you through the criminal process and get you a fair and just result.

I Have Been Arrested, Do I Need a Lawyer?

Yes. An experienced criminal defense attorney can inform you of your rights and defenses. An attorney can also represent you if you feel that you are the victim of police misconduct. Punishment for crimes can be very harsh and can negatively affect you for the rest of your life. The legal process can be demanding, rigorous, and time consuming. It is stressful on both the accused as well as that individual’s friends and family. Hiring the right criminal defense attorney can often make a substantial difference in your case.

Police Questioning

Q: Do I have to answer questions from the police?

A: Usually not. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution protects from self incrimination.

Q: Do the police need to “Read me my Rights”?

A: The police generally only need to read you your rights (also called your Miranda Rights) if they want to question you. If the police do not read you your rights, then usually nothing you say can be used against you at trial.

Q: What do I do if I am arrested and the police question me?

A: If you’ve been arrested, the best advice is usually to remain silent and ask for an attorney. You could inform the police that you wish to remain silent or just stay silent and they will typically understand.

Q: Can the police question me after I have asserted the right to remain silent?

A: They could continue to question you, but generally what you say may not be used as evidence against you at your trial. Typically, the best advice is to remain silent and wait for an attorney.

Arraignment

Everyone who has been arrested, is entitled to an arraignment. But what happens at the arraignment?

Q: What is an arraignment?

A: An arraignment is the formal appearance of an arrested individual in court for the first time after an arrest or in response to a criminal summons. The purpose is to answer the accusations contained in the criminal information or indictment.

Q: What happens at the arraignment?

A: At the arraignment, the judge:

Calls the defendant by name for the purpose of completely and accurately identifying him.
Informs the defendant of the charges against him or her and the penalty for each charge.
Informs the defendant of his or her constitutional rights, including his or her right to counsel.
Receives the defendant’s plea of guilty, not guilty, or in some cases “no contest.” Pleas of guilty or no contest means that there will be no trial and the judge will impose a sentence. A plea of not guilty usually results in a trial date set by the Court where you will have the opportunity to convince a jury of your innocence.
Sets and reviews the conditions for release or bail.

Q: When does an arraignment occur?

A: The police can hold a suspect in custody up to 72 hours before an arraignment must occur (depending on the jurisdiction). If the defendant has been released on his or her own recognizance (“ROR”) or has posted bail, then the arraignment will occur within a short time after the defendant’s release from jail.

Q: Do I have to personally appear for the arraignment?

A: If you are charged with a felony, you must appear in person at the arraignment. If the charge is a misdemeanor, the defendant’s attorney may sometimes appear on his or her behalf.

Investigation and Discovery

Q: What happens between arraignment and trial?

A: During the time after you are arraigned, but before trial begins, a good lawyer can investigate the claims against you to determine the strengths of a defense. An attorney can also negotiate with prosecutors to push for a better plea offer instead of going to trial.

Q: Can the government interrogate or depose me after I’ve hired a lawyer and they’ve filed charges?

A: Not without your permission. Sometimes a lawyer can negotiate with the government for full or partial immunity if you have information the government wants. That cooperation can be very valuable to the government and may give you leverage when discussing potential sentences.

Q: How do I build a case to defend myself?

A: An attorney can help tell the court the facts about what happened and can investigate defenses. For instance, an attorney can talk to or even possibly depose witnesses and law enforcement agents to determine whether they are being fully truthful or whether they may be mistaken about events that occurred.

Trial

Q: What happens if my case goes to trial?

A: Many criminal cases result in a negotiated bargain between the government and the defendant. However, when that is not possible, a trial will allow the accused to tell their side of the story. Witnesses can be called and evidence can be presented to refute the government’s accusations. This is a complex process and an experienced trial attorney is a valuable asset.

Q: What does “beyond a reasonable doubt” mean?

A: Many people have heard that the government must prove someone guilty of a crime “beyond all reasonable doubt.” This means that the judge or jury can only find a person guilty of committing a crime if they have no doubt that the person is guilty, or if any such doubt is unreasonable. This is a high bar for the government to meet and skilled trial attorneys emphasize the reasonable doubt that can lead to a verdict of not guilty.

Q: Do I have testify at trial?

A: Not unless you want to. The United States Constitution prohibits the government from forcing accused people to testify. However, sometimes testifying is a good idea for strategic reasons. In any event, this is a serious decision and should not be taken lightly. A good lawyer can help you evaluate the potential risks and benefits of testifying at trial.

Appeals

Q: If I’m convicted of a crime, can I appeal?

A: In most cases, you can pursue an appeal of your case. Sometimes, you can even pursue multiple appeals. Whether you have the right to an appeal, and whether your appeal may be successful, are highly-individualized questions based on the facts and circumstances surrounding your conviction. If you feel you might have a valid appeal, contact a lawyer to discuss those circumstances.

Q: Does an appeal mean having another trial?

A: Sometimes the goal of an appeal will be to have your case tried all over again to correct a mistake that was made. Before that can happen, the appeal is usually handled through written legal briefs and oral argument before a judge or panel of judges. The appellate process involves in-depth legal research of issues raised by your conviction and requires a skilled lawyer who knows appellate procedure and how to properly analyze and argue complicated legal issues.

Other Questions

A criminal charge raises many complicated issues and can be very confusing. If you have questions not answered here, please contact the law office of Centrone & Shrader, PLLC at (813) 360-1529.