Frequently Asked Questions About the Criminal Defense Process
Q: I Was Arrested. What Do I Do?
At the time of your arrest, stay calm. Resisting arrest or attempting to engage with the arresting officer either physically or verbally could result in more criminal charges or a harsher sentence if you are convicted.
The arresting officer may give you information about the charges against you, but they are not required to do so. You or your family should call a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible following your arrest. An attorney can get information about the charges against you and will advise you on how to protect your rights.
Before interrogating you, the arresting officer is required to advise you of your right to remain silent. (Miranda, which is a statement of your rights while in custody. You have the right to remain silent and you have the right to be represented by an attorney.) We strongly recommend that you do not speak to the police other than to provide basic information about your identity until your attorney arrives. Your attorney can help you evaluate whether to share any other information with the authorities.
During the arrest, officers may also seize property, records, and/or other materials as evidence. If you or your family have digital or physical evidence that is potentially incriminating or exculpatory (i.e., proof that you are not guilty), you should preserve that evidence and share it with your attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can advise on the best way to handle any evidence.
When you are arrested, you will be brought to the police station and held in custody. Depending on whether you have any outstanding warrants or a criminal history, you may be released from custody, or the police may require you to pay bail or a bond.
Q: What Should I Do if I Can’t Afford My Bail?
A bail or bond may be paid in cash, by pledging a property, by certified bank check, and in some states, by purchasing a surety (an insurance policy from a licensed bond company). If you cannot afford your bail, an attorney can advise you of your options and may be able to negotiate a lower bail. Your best option may be to stay in custody until your bail can be reduced.
Q: What is the Process After Criminal Charges are Filed in Court?
If you are charged with a felony, you must appear in court for an arraignment, which is the first formal court proceeding in your case. At the arraignment, the charges against you will be announced and your attorney will enter a plea on your behalf. The court will also hear arguments from both sides regarding your bail and/or the conditions of your release. The conditions of your release may impact whether you can maintain employment, support your family, access treatment or prepare your defense. That said, it is very important to have an attorney that is well prepared to advocate for you at arraignment.
Following the arraignment, the court will schedule a preliminary hearing date, or a setting day for your preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is like a mini-trial where the judge determines if there is sufficient evidence to go forward with your case. The preliminary hearing is important. Charges can be dismissed or added. This is your attorney’s opportunity to test the evidence against you. If civilian witnesses are called, this is your attorney’s chance to lock in their version of events and determine how credible they will be at trial.
At some point, starting at arraignment all the way up to trial, the prosecutor will likely propose a plea deal, offering you lesser charges or a reduced sentence in exchange for an admission of guilt. If your case is not resolved by a dismissal of the charges or by reaching a plea agreement, the court will schedule a trial.
If your case is scheduled for trial, the jury will determine if you are guilty and if any enhancements are true. Our office has extensive trial experience. Usually, it is not enough to fall back on the defense that the prosecutor failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. We believe you need a competing story that points toward innocence.
Q: Should I Go to Trial or Take a Plea Deal?
Any offer or plea bargain should be evaluated carefully with your lawyer. The decision will depend on many factors, including the specifics of the government’s offer, the strength of your defense, the evidence against you and the sentence you could receive if convicted.
If the proposed plea bargain has too many downsides, your best option may be to go to trial. If you decide to accept a plea deal, your lawyer will ensure that your rights have been protected and that you understand both the short-term and long-term consequences of the plea. We have the skills and courage to accept the challenge of trial. We never pressure our clients to take a plea deal. The final decision is always yours. If you decide to go to trial, if you have no other real option but to go to trial, then you will have a prepared and formidable trial attorney on your side.
Q: What Should I Look For in a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
Many attorneys say they will fight for you. Fighting sounds good and might make you feel good that someone is finally hitting back and defending you. You want a wise warrior rather than one that is overmatched and fights for fighting’s sake. Make no mistake, we will defend you. We will not shy away from challenging the police, the prosecutor, or the judge. However, we believe in strategically advocating for you and picking the right battles before charging into battle.
Your attorney should know the law, know people, and know what is important to you. Your criminal defense attorney should be skilled and experienced defending against the types of charges you are facing. You should ensure that your attorney is respected, trusted, and is always looking after your best interests.
It is important that you feel comfortable and confident with the attorney representing you. Look for an attorney who listens and cares. You should feel a connection with your attorney. This is the person who is entrusted with defending you. Can you rely on your attorney? Will they wilt under pressure or thrive under pressure?.
Your attorney should be accessible and available. We believe in a strong partnership. That means keeping you informed and up to date.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you should be aware that any criminal charges against you may impact your immigration status. A non-U.S. citizen should be represented by an attorney who has experience in both criminal and immigration law.
Q: How Much Will This Cost?
We recognize that price is important. In general, the cost of legal representation depends on the lawyer’s level of experience and the nature of the case.
Your first consultation with us is always free. Our firm offers fair pricing for top tier representation. You will know up-front how much you can expect to pay — no surprises. Our goal is to provide you the best value for a top-notch defense.
Have Other Questions? Contact Us.
If you are facing serious criminal charges, you and your family likely have many questions. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about the criminal defense process. Contact The Law Offices of Adrian M. Baca by phone or by completely filling out the form on our website to schedule a free consultation.