Criminal Law

Criminal Law

Being accused of a crime is one of the worst experiences a person can have.  The potential of losing your liberty is always a primary concern when these allegations are made. The criminal law system can be very complex and critical decisions must usually be made long before criminal charges are actually filed.  The assistance of  a competent criminal lawyer from the beginning is essential in protecting your rights.  If you have been contacted by law enforcement concerning a criminal law matter you should always consult with a lawyer prior to discussing a case with the police and have a lawyer present for any questioning.  Without the assistance of a lawyer you may mistakenly waive your Constitutional rights.  You should never do this without having a lawyer help you with this decision.

There are two different kinds of criminal charges: felony-level charges and misdemeanor-level charges. Basically, if you are convicted of a felony-level case, you could be sentenced to serve time in the Wyoming State Penitentiary. Misdemeanor crimes can carry a jail sentence in the county jail up to one year. In either case, a lawyer is vitally important to the result.

INITIAL APPEARANCE

This is a hearing where the defendant is informed of charges against him. The judge will usually set a bond for a defendant who is in custody. If the crime is serious enough to carry a jail sentence, a lawyer must be provided. If a defendant does not have enough money to hire a lawyer, he can ask the court to appoint a public defender.

BAIL BOND

A bail bond is a sum of money that must be deposited with the court to ensure a defendant will return to face the charges. In most cases, bond is set at the initial appearance. The court usually inquires about the defendant’s contacts to the community, the length of time he has lived here, whether he has a job, and the severity of the charges.

A personal recognizance type bond allows the defendant to sign an agreement with the court saying he promises to appear as required. If he doesn’t appear, he owes the court the agreed amount of the bond. If a cash bond is set, the cash must be paid up front before the defendant is released. If the defendant is unable to post the bond on his own, he may need to hire a bail bondsman who will post the bond for a fee. Bond money is returned after the case is finished. Although it may seem like a penalty, bond is designed as security to make sure that, after being released, a defendant will appear for all scheduled hearings.

PRELIMINARY HEARING

Within a very short time after arrest, a felony-level criminal defendant has the right to have the government demonstrate probable cause that he committed a crime. This hearing takes place in Circuit Court and is a very important step in the process. A defendant should always have a lawyer represent him at this stage. Even though hearsay evidence is admissible during these hearings, they can be very helpful to the defendant and his lawyer because the state must disclose a good deal of the evidence that will be used at the trial. If the court determines there is sufficient evidence to go forward, the defendant is “bound over” to district court for trial.

ARRAIGNMENT

This is a hearing where the defendant is advised of his rights and the charges against him. In felony level cases, this hearing takes place in district court. A defendant is expected to enter a plea during arraignment and, after this hearing, the speedy trial clock begins to run. Unless the defendant waives his right to a speedy trial, the trial must be held within 6 months of the arraignment.

TRIAL

Most people know what a trial is. The government presents its case first and calls witnesses that it hopes will prove the defendant has committed a crime. The defense goes next and may call witnesses to show no crime was committed or, if one was committed, the defendant was not the one that committed it.

WHAT ATTORNEYS DO IN CRIMINAL CASES

The first thing an attorney does is contact the government to find out what evidence leads the authorities to believe a crime occurred. Attorneys have to look at all the evidence and talk to the witnesses. While preparing for trial, they will try to find out if any evidence the state intends to use was obtained in violation of the Constitution. If that has happened, the evidence may be suppressed and the government cannot use it at trial.

Getting ready for a criminal trial is a very complicated process and takes a great deal of time. When the trial begins, the defense lawyer must cross examine the government’s witnesses. Cross examination exposes weaknesses in the government’s case and forces the government witnesses to admit facts that are helpful to the defendant’s case. It is vital to hire a lawyer with experience in all of these areas, particularly cross examination. Your liberty may depend upon it.

Wyoming Criminal Defense lawyers are critical to the functioning of the criminal justice system.  This system can be very complicated and hazardous.  The Wyoming prosecutors and members of law enforcement all know how the system works. Most criminal defendants have no idea how the system works.  A criminal defendant does have a number of important rights which are designed to make the process fair, but if you don’t know what they are, you are at a serious disadvantage. Having a competent Wyoming criminal lawyer to help you make decisions is vital for all stages of any criminal  accusation.  At the Whitaker Law Office, we do not charge people who call us just to find out what their rights are.  Usually, we can answer the basic questions a person might have in an initial consultation.  Call us today if you are worried about a criminal matter.  We can provide peace of mind and give you the information you need to make informed decisions on what could be the most important decisions you will ever make.