Criminal Law FAQ

Criminal Law FAQ

1. How much do you charge?

My fees for criminal cases depend on the severity and complexity of the charges and the court where the charges are pending. After talking with you about your case, I will quote you a fee. However, I cannot be precise about the fee because it depends on the complexity of the case and the likelihood that the case will go to trial. We won’t know if the case will go to trial until we have interviewed the witnesses and examined the physical evidence. In felony cases, I will usually quote a fee after the initial consultation. We always use written fee agreements in felony criminal cases so that your rights and obligations are clear.

2. Should I talk to the police?

If you have been charged with a crime, it is rarely a good idea to make any statements and it is a terrible idea to make any statement to the police without having a lawyer present. You have the right under the Fifth Amendment to the United States and Wyoming Constitutions not to make statements that may later be used against you. This is a very important right and you should never waive it without advice from a lawyer.

3. Should I take a lie detector test?

No. Lie detector tests are usually inadmissible in court. Some people think lie detector test results will always be very clear. They are not and must be interpreted by a trained investigator. If you do take one, it is my experience that the government agents interpret the results of these tests to find the person is not being truthful. Sometimes the government may mislead you about the results to get you to admit to something you did not do. These tests are usually given in the middle of an interrogation session and can be very intimidating. When you consult with a lawyer he may decide a lie detector could be helpful in negotiating with the government. If that is the case, we can have you take the test privately, in a non-threatening environment to see how you do

4. Should I turn myself in if I know that a warrant has been issued for my arrest?

Yes. If the court knows you have voluntarily submitted yourself for arrest, the bond will likely be much lower. If you force the government to catch you, they are more likely to argue for a larger bond. If possible, you should consult with and hire a lawyer before being arrested because the lawyer can then attend your first bond hearing.

5. Should I ask for a jury trial?

Yes. You can always waive the jury trial if you and your lawyer think that would be in your best interest. But once you waive a jury trial, you can’t get it back. It is safer to always ask for a jury initially.

6. How long do criminal cases take to get to trial?

Criminal cases have priority in our court system. Your case will usually be concluded within 6 months of your arraignment unless evidence issues must be evaluated that would cause you to waive your speedy trial right.

7. Will I have to go to trial if I am charged with a crime?

No. Most cases end with some type of plea bargain. This is an agreement between you and the government. If the specific facts of your case are significant, it may make sense to make a deal for a lesser charge or agree on a limit on your sentence. The court has the ability to accept or reject a plea bargain. If the court believes you are getting too good of a deal, it has the authority to reject the agreement. If this happens, you can start over. It is very important to discuss a potential deal with a competent lawyer so you can have some idea of what the court may be likely to do in your case.

8. How serious are the charges against me?

Felony charges are very serious and you should always hire a lawyer to protect you. Misdemeanor cases sound less threatening, but conviction can, in some instances, cause you to lose your right to purchase firearms and receive federal benefits such as student loans. You should know what you are in for before you plead guilty to any charge.

9. What if there is an eyewitness against me?

Eyewitness testimony can be devastating to your case, but it can also be very unreliable. There are hundreds of instances where DNA testing has proved that people have been convicted on the basis of inaccurate witness testimony. Just because you are told that there is an eyewitness does not mean that the case is over.

10. Did the police violate my Constitutional Rights, and if so, what difference does that make?

This is probably the most important analysis a lawyer must do in any case. If the evidence against you was obtained in violation of the Constitution, the evidence may be inadmissible. If the evidence cannot be used, your case may be dismissed. The government is required to follow the rules and, if it doesn’t, the court may penalize unconstitutional conduct on the part of the government by prohibiting incriminating evidence. A lawyer will evaluate the lawfulness of the government’s conduct and, if necessary, file documents with the court asking that the evidence be excluded. The trial judge must decide whether the evidence was wrongfully obtained and, if so, whether it can be used at trial. This can be a huge problem for the government. Each piece of evidence must be evaluated to determine how the government discovered the evidence in the first place.

11. How do I get someone out of jail?

Ordinarily, if the person has been arrested for a crime that already has a bond schedule set, you can take money up to the jail and pay the bond there.  They will then release the person.  For most misdemeanors, there is a bond schedule and you can call the jail to find out what it is.
 
If the person has been arrested for misdemeanor family violence or a felony level violation a judge must set the bond.  This can take some time. When we get a call to help someone get out of jail, we will need to know what the person is charged with, their connection to the community and their prior criminal history.  We will start by calling one of the Circuit Court judges and ask that a bond be set.  They will want to know what the District Attorney’s office thinks is a reasonable bond.  The judge will tell us which DA is on call and so we will need to check with them. If you don’t go through a lawyer, the Circuit Court judges will generally call the jail around 2pm on Saturday and Sunday and set bond for those people who do not pose a risk of some kind.  Generally, on Monday of each week, the court conducts what they call initial appearances. The purpose if this hearing is to bring the person before the court to inquire as to their flight risk. A bond will be set in most cases and you would need to come up with the money to pay into the court to obtain the person’s release.  If you don’t have enough cash to put up the bond, you can call a bail bonds person. For a fee, they will post the bond.  If you get a person out of jail on the weekend, there will likely be conditions placed on release including things like not consuming alcohol or having contact with any alleged victim. Make sure that the person does not violate any of these conditions or they could be arrested again.  You will need to make sure the person attends the initial appearance.  This will generally be the next business day.