Criminal law is concerned with the punishment of offenders. In the United States, criminal law is implemented based on the combination of common law system, state legislation, and federal statutes. Local, state, and federal prosecutors can file charges for violation of criminal laws.
Here is the list of five common questions to keep in mind if you are facing criminal charges.
1. What Type of Crimes Charges Do I Have to Face?
You can be convicted of three types of crimes: An infraction, a misdemeanor, and a felony. A parking ticket is an example of a criminal infraction. Usually, an infraction can be resolved by a fine. You are not likely to receive a jail sentence for an infraction.
A misdemeanor, on the other hand, may result in a fine as well as a jail sentence. A misdemeanor is more severe than an infraction, but not as serious as a felony. Most states have categorized misdemeanor charges into different classes such as class A, class B, and so on. Your jail sentence and the amount of fine will depend on the type of misdemeanor. DUI is an example of a misdemeanor.
A felony is the most serious crime in America. Bank robbery, kidnapping, homicide, and attempted murder charges are a few examples of felonies. Different states have different rules, regulations, and court procedures to prosecute the criminals who have committed felonies. However, a U.S. citizen charged with a felony has a right to a jury trial and to legal representation.
2. Why Should I Hire a Lawyer If I Can Represent Myself?
Most people are under the impression that they do not need to hire a lawyer if they are facing serious charges such as homicide or rape. They are wrong. Even lawyers don’t represent themselves if charged with a crime. Criminal law is a highly specialized area that requires a thorough understanding of the law and years of courtroom experience. Hiring an attorney who is familiar with the local court procedures and who has handled cases similar to yours will increase your chances of success. It is, therefore, necessary to hire a lawyer even if you are facing a relatively simple DUI charge.
3. When Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Every U.S. citizen has the right to legal counsel. However, the code of criminal procedure may vary from state to state. You can see your lawyer immediately after charges are filed against you. The right to an attorney, however, may apply if you are being interrogated or placed in custody before filing any formal charges. Your lawyer can accompany you during the criminal proceedings. You can choose to remain silent if your attorney is not present with you. But, you shouldn’t lie to the investigating officers or mislead them in any way, as this may backfire on you during the trial. A lawyer will be provided to you by the state if you can’t afford to hire a private criminal defense attorney under the law.
4. What Is Bail? How Does It Work? Can I Get My Bail Money Back?
Bail is a tool that permits the release of a defendant from custody while ensuring his/her appearance for all the required court proceedings. While it is available to most people, certain factors such as your criminal history and the severity of your crime can make it harder to obtain it. Your bail money will be repaid at the end of the trial if you remain present for every court proceeding. The court will keep your money if you fail to show up during the legal process.
There are five types of bail, although not all of them are used as frequently as the cash bail and the surety bond. Cash bail means that the accused pays the full amount of bail in cash. Most defendants, however, choose to place bail through a bail agent or a bondsman. This type of arrangement is known as the surety bond or a bail bond. A bail bond is used when a defendant can’t afford to pay his/her bail. If you are in jail, you can ask your friend or a relative to contact a bail bondsman or a bail agent.
The bondsman will pledge to pay the full value of the bond if you don’t appear in court. So, he or she will charge you a 10 percent premium and may collect collateral, such as the title to a house or jewelry. However, commercial bail bonding is illegal in eight states. Other less-frequently-used types of bail include own recognizance bonds, property bonds, and pre-trial release binds.
5. How Much Will It Cost to Defend My Criminal Charges?
The cost of defending your criminal charges depends on a variety of factors such as the seriousness of your crime, your criminal history, and the type of lawyer you have hired. You can shop around to hire a competent, yet affordable lawyer, as most attorneys offer free initial consultations. Usually, a criminal defense attorney charges either an hourly rate or a flat fee. Most lawyers ask you to pay the costs in addition to the attorney's fees. These costs can include additional services like hiring a private investigator or an expert witness, and serving subpoenas.
One can easily end up on the wrong side of the law. Sometimes, people are falsely accused of a crime that they didn’t commit. A criminal conviction can remain on your record for the rest of your life. Therefore, you shouldn't take any criminal charge lightly. These five common criminal law questions will help you understand the criminal law procedure, your rights as a defendant, and the cost involved in defending your charges.