For the average person, being arrested and charged with a criminal offense is a fairly frightening experience. Being denied your freedom until you make bond is scary enough. Once you are released, however, the gravity of the situation starts to really sink in, along with the possibility that you could be returned to jail if you are convicted. The most important thing you can do for yourself if you find yourself facing criminal charges is to retain the services of an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney. Having never been a defendant before though, you may not know what to do after that. Specifically, you may not know what question to ask your criminal defense lawyer.
Questions for Your Criminal Defense Lawyer
Although every prosecution is unique, there are some common questions that will apply to just about every criminal case. With that in mind, consider asking an attorney the following questions:
- What potential penalties am I facing if convicted? This is a question you will likely think to ask yourself as most defendant’s want to know what the worst case scenario is. Knowing what the minimum and maximum judicial penalties are is important; however, you also need to know what the non-judicial penalties of a conviction are likely to be. For example, you might lose your job, face disciplinary action if you hold a professional license, or lose the right to vote or carry a firearm as a result of a conviction.
- What evidence does the State have against me? For obvious reasons it is important to know what evidence the State plans to use against you if your case goes to trial. Often, the extent of the State’s case against you is not known immediately after your arrest but the State is legally required to hand over to your attorney any evidence or testimony it plans to use against you. The State is also required to hand over any exculpatory evidence it has uncovered that could help your case.
- What defense strategies do you see available in my case? Even if you initially planned to simply enter into a plea agreement with the State, you should always ask your attorney about possible defense strategies. A criminal defense attorney does nothing but study criminal law and represent defendants. Therefore, a good criminal defense attorney may have thought of a defense strategy that could result in avoiding a conviction. You may, ultimately, decide to accept a plea agreement but you should know all your options before making that decision.
- Do you feel entering into a plea agreement is in my best interest? Conversely, you should always discuss the possibility of entering into a plea agreement, even if you came into this determined to take your case to trial. A trial, while offering the possibility of an acquittal, is also risky because the outcome is far from certain. In addition, when you accept a plea agreement you usually know what your punishment will be. When you lose at trial, your punishment is up to the judge, making it far from certain.
- What can I do to help my case? This may be the most important question you ask your Nebraska criminal defense attorney. Your assistance and behavior over the next few weeks or months will be crucial to the outcome of your case. You might be able to contribute to your defense in a number of ways, such as providing the names and contact information for witnesses on your behalf or offering information about another potential suspect that the police clearly overlooked. In addition, the court likely established rules and conditions for your release. Your compliance with those pre-trial release conditions will not only prevent you from being returned to custody while your case is pending, but will also show the judge that you do not need to be incarcerated if you are ultimately convicted and the judge has the discretion to avoid sentencing you to jail/prison. The important thing is that you want to be an active participant in your defense and the manner I which your case proceeds. To do that, you need to know what your attorney needs and/or expects from you.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense 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.