For the average person, being arrested and charged with a criminal offense is a frightening experience – particularly if it is the first time. If you find yourself in that situation, you undoubtedly have a number of questions about the criminal justice process in general and about your case specifically. Because each prosecution includes a unique set of facts and circumstances it is always in your best interests to consult with an experienced Cass County, Nebraska criminal defense attorney about your case. There are, however, a number of common questions people have when they find themselves the defendant in a criminal prosecution. In an effort to help answer some of those questions, a Cass County criminal defense attorney has provided answers to five common questions.
- Should I talk to the police and/or prosecutor? Absolutely not! You have a Constitutional right against self-incrimination, or a right to remain silent. Use it. It is never a good idea for a suspect or defend to talk to the police or prosecutor without first consulting with a criminal defense attorney for a variety of reasons, including the simple fact that something you say could be misinterpreted and/or used against you. Always talk to an attorney before talking to a police officer or prosecutor.
- Do I need an attorney? Even if the charges against you appear to be fairly minor, there are still several reasons why you should retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. First, the charges against you may be more serious than you realize and/or may lead to more serious charges. Second, there may be non-judicial penalties for a conviction of which you are unaware. For example, you might face professional discipline, deportation, or disqualification for future employment if you are convicted. Finally, even if the potential penalties are not serious, why accept a conviction if you can avoid one? An experienced defense attorney may see a way to avoid a conviction altogether.
- What happens after I am arrested and charged? A bond will be set that will allow you to be released into the community while your case is pending. If the bond is too high, a criminal defense attorney may be able to get it lowered. You will have an initial hearing at which the judge will inform you of the charges against you and enter a preliminary plea of not guilty on your behalf. After that, it will depend on how you plan to handle your case. Your attorney will investigate the case and review the State’s evidence against you. At that point a decision will be made to pursue plea negotiations or prepare for trial.
- How will my attorney defend me? The State of Nebraska has the burden of proving that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. As the accused, you are not required to prove anything or even present a defense. Nevertheless, your Cass County defense attorney will likely review the State’s evidence and look for weaknesses in the case against you. Your attorney will then focus on those weaknesses as part of your defense unless you have an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is one in which you effectively admit the conduct alleged by the state; however, you claim that you had an overriding legal right to engage in that conduct. Self-defense, for example, is an affirmative defense.
- Should I accept a plea agreement? This one is really something that should only be answered after consulting with an attorney; however, there are some general guidelines. First, in order to accept a guilty plea agreement, you have to be prepared to admit you are guilty. Second, the evidence against you should be strong enough that your odds of winning at a trial are low. Finally, the terms of the plea agreement should be favorable, meaning better than what you would likely receive if sentenced after a guilty verdict at trial.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Cass County, Nebraska it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Cass County criminal defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.