Have you been arrested or facing criminal charges? Whether you were arrested for a misdemeanor, felony or are being investigated for a criminal offense, a criminal defense attorney can help protect your legal rights.
In most cases, you have the right to self-representation in criminal court. However, that does not mean that it is a good idea. It can be very risky to represent yourself when facing criminal charges and saying the wrong thing could result in a guilty verdict. There are serious penalties for misdemeanor and felony criminal charges, including:
A permanent criminal record
Some criminal convictions can limit your future opportunities, including professional licensing, finding a job, getting a place to live, and ownership of a firearm. For people who are not U.S. citizens, there may also be immigration consequences of a criminal conviction, including removal proceedings and deportation.
From the pre-trial process, plea negotiations, criminal trial, and appeals, a trial lawyer can provide the legal representation to give you the best opportunity to avoid a criminal conviction.
Should I Work With Police or Prosecutors on My Case?
Many people think that if they did not do anything wrong, they don't have anything to worry about. Unfortunately, innocent people go to prison all the time. Some innocent people even plead guilty to a crime they never committed. Many of these people did not hire a criminal defense lawyer.
When law enforcement talks to a suspect, they may be trying to get evidence to use as probable cause to make the arrest. Even if you did nothing wrong, you have the right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer if you are taken into custody. This may be the best option to protect yourself from saying something that can be used against you, even if it was taken out of context.
Prosecutors are interested in getting convictions. Most criminal cases in Columbia are settled before they go to trial by a plea agreement. The prosecutor may make it seem like there is no chance and the defendant should accept the plea bargain for a lighter sentence instead of getting the maximum sentence after a trial. If you cooperate with the prosecutor without talking to a criminal law attorney for legal advice, you may end up signing away your legal rights and end up facing jail time.
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Criminal defense is a unique practice area and you may want a lawyer who primarily practices criminal defense law. Different criminal defense attorneys may have different strengths. It is important to find the best criminal defense attorney in the Columbia area who also is the right fit for you and your individual situation. When you talk to an attorney, ask them about their experience handling criminal charges like yours. Factors that you may want to consider in choosing a criminal defense law firm include:
Years of experience
Availability for questions and updates
Experience with the judge and prosecutor in your case
Approach to building a strong criminal defense
Approach to plea bargain agreements
Successful representation of clients
There are many benefits to hiring an experienced Columbia defense attorney for your criminal case. From the beginning, an attorney can inform you of your legal rights and criminal law options. You have the right to have an attorney represent you in court. You have the right to a trial by jury. You also have the right to remain silent, the right to a public trial, and the right to confront witnesses.
It can be intimidating to go through the criminal legal system alone. The judge may not have much patience for answering your questions and the prosecutor may make it seem like you have no option but to plead guilty. Having someone on your side can help make the experience less painful. A criminal defense trial lawyer can also ensure you are not taken advantage of or give up your legal rights in a bad plea bargain.
Some criminal charges come with administrative penalties like a suspended driver's license or loss of school scholarships.
It is always a good idea to research your lawyer prior to hiring. Every state has a disciplinary organization that monitors attorneys, their licenses, and consumer complaints. By researching lawyer discipline you can:
Ensure the attorney is currently licensed to practice in your state
Gain an understanding of his or her historical disciplinary record, if any.
Determine the seriousness of complaints/issues which could range from late bar fees to more serious issues requiring disciplinary action.