I have been arrested, what happens now?
If you are held in custody, you must be brought to the courtroom before a judge for your First Appearance. You must be in front of a judge within 36 hours of your arrest, not counting the day of your arrest, Sundays and legal holidays. So, if you were arrested on a Friday night, you must get your First Appearance by Monday at noon, or as soon after that time as a judge is available. If you do not get your First Appearance you must be released with a citation which sets out the date and time of your First Appearance. If you were arrested and then released, you will be given a citation telling you about your First Appearance. If you are arrested without a warrant and held in custody, there must be a probable cause determination by a judge within 48 hours of your arrest, including the day of your arrest, Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. You do not have to be present in front of the judge for this to happen. A "probable cause determination" means that a judge decides that there is enough evidence to believe a crime has occurred and that you committed the crime. The decision is not just left to the police or the sheriff's office. If there is no determination within the 48 hours or if the determination is that there is no probable cause, you must be released.
What happens at my first appearance in court?
At your First Appearance you will stand before a judge and you will be told what the charges are against you. The judge will determine if you need an interpreter and if you will be able to understand the proceedings in court. If a written complaint has been prepared and you have not already received one, you will be given a copy of the written complaint against you, along with any attachments. If you have not yet been booked, you may be required to submit to being photographed and fingerprinted and booked. You will also be told by the judge about a number of your legal rights, such as your right to legal counsel and to remain silent and not submit to questioning. and your right to a trial by jury or by the court. The rights advisory may be given to a number of people at once instead of individually. If you are charged with a felony or gross misdemeanor you will not be asked to plead guilty or not guilty at that time. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you can plead guilty, not guilty, or demand a written complaint before entering your plea.
What does it mean if the crime charged is a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor, or a felony?
Crimes are placed in different categories according to the punishment that can be given
Misdemeanor: The maximum punishment is 90 days in jail or a fine of $1000, or both.
Gross Misdemeanor: The maximum punishment is 1 year in jail or a fine of $3000, or both.
Felony: Sentance of imprisonment of over 1 year.
The police want to talk to me. Should I make a statement or answer their questions so I can get this whole thing straightened out?
Usually the answer is a great big NO. By the time law enforcement officers have focused on you or you are arrested, you will not be able to talk yourself out of the situation. You should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney before ever making a statement to or answering questions from an officer. The officers are looking for evidence to use against you and not for reasons to set you free. You need your attorney to be present before speaking with the officers.
The police want to search me, my home, or my car. Should I consent?
Again, usually the answer is a great big NO. If the officers have a warrant for the search, you have no choice. The warrant can later be challenged, but the search will take place. If there is no search warrant, you do not have to give your consent to a search. Normally you should not consent to any search without first meeting with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Why should I hire an attorney?
Because your life depends on it. How you handle being charged with a crime affects your freedom and how you live your life. With a felony conviction you will face a prison sentence, the loss of the right to vote, and the loss of the right to possess a firearm, even for hunting. A criminal conviction will affect your ability to obtain certain jobs and licenses. A DUI conviction can result in a jail sentence, loss of your driver's license and increased insurance rates, and even the loss of your motor vehicle. When any person is arrested, the first examination is of how law enforcement officers acted. You need to attack and challenge in court the actions of the officers if there was any violation of your rights. You need the experience and skills of a criminal defense attorney to get this done. You have a number of important decisions in front of you. It is vital that you clearly understand your choices and have a plan for putting your life back on track. An experienced criminal defense attorney is the best tool you can use to overcome the huge problems you now face.