For the average person, being arrested and accused of a criminal offense is a traumatic and frightening experience. This is particularly so if it the first time you have been arrested. If you find yourself in this position, there will likely be a seemingly endless number of questions floating through your head relating to the facts of the case, the criminal process itself, and the potential outcomes of your case. The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your future is to retain the services of an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney. Once you are represented by an attorney, you can ask him/her all of those questions. To help ensure that you don’t forget, and that you focus on the most important questions, the following five questions are questions you really want to ask your criminal defense attorney because the answers are important.
- What are my charges and what must the State prove to convict me? Most people have a fairly good idea of what they are charged with when they are arrested; however, you need to know exactly what criminal statutes the State is charging you with violating. More importantly, you need to understand exactly what the State needs to prove to convict you of those crimes. For example, if you are charged with second-degree sexual assault, do you know exactly what the State is accusing you of? The statute reads as follows: “Any person who subjects another person to sexual contact (a) without consent of the victim, or (b) who knew or should have known that the victim was physically or mentally incapable of resisting or appraising the nature of his or her conduct is guilty of sexual assault in either the second degree or third degree.” To convict you, the State must prove there was “sexual contact.” Do you know what that means? To prepare for your defense, you must know exactly where you stand and what the State must prove.
- What are the potential penalties if I am convicted? Potential penalties will depend on a number of factors, including the offense(s) for which you may be convicted and any criminal history you may have. Simply looking up the crime on the internet won’t give you an accurate answer because the penalties you face will be unique to your facts and circumstances.
- What evidence does the State have against me? The prosecuting attorney is required by law to provide your defense attorney with “discovery,” which is a legal term referring to potential evidence the State plans to introduce during its case against you. As your attorney receives information relating to the evidence the State has compiled against you, it is in your best interest to go over that evidence in detail with your attorney.
- Do you see any way to exclude any of the State’s evidence? Sometimes, extremely damning evidence against a defendant never makes it into the trial record because something about the evidence itself, or the manner in which it was collected, allowed a defense attorney to get it excluded. If, for example, the police conducted a search of your home with a search warrant, your attorney might be able to get any evidence seized during that search excluded if the search didn’t qualify for one of the narrow exclusions to a warrantless search. Likewise, if the police questioned you after you were taken into custody but without advising you of your Miranda rights, or continue to question you after you asked for an attorney, your answers might be excluded.
- What can I do to help with my defense? This may be the most important question you ask your criminal defense attorney. The answer can only help you, however, if you really listen to it and follow your attorney’s advice/suggestions. Sometimes, the most important thing you can do to help your case is to stay out of trouble while it is pending. Other times, however, there is something concrete you can do, such as locate contact information for a friend who can provide an alibi or dig up pay stubs that explain why you had cash on you at the time of your arrest. The important thing is that you actually follow the advice your attorney gives you with regard to what you can do to help.
Contact a Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorney at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.