What is a misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors are crimes that are punishable by up to one year in jail. Misdemeanors can also result in penalties in addition to incarceration such as: fines, probation, restitution and community service. Under the Constitution, if you’ve been charged with a crime, such as a misdemeanor, you are considered innocent until the prosecuting attorney proves you are guilty of the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If you cannot afford an attorney, you are entitled to a public defender, although the standards for a public defender may vary from state to state or even from county to county. Misdemeanor convictions can result in serious repercussions to your career, reputation and freedom. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, contact a private criminal attorney today to make sure that your Constitutional Rights are properly protected!
What’s the criminal process for misdemeanor charges?
A misdemeanor criminal charge may start out as a citation from a police officer or may come as a complaint from the prosecuting attorney. Regardless of how you are charged, you should receive a document, either a court summons or a ticket, that sets the time and date for your arraignment or first appearance in court. Do not miss your hearing date, otherwise you may have a warrant issued for your arrest and you may have to face additional criminal charges, such as a failure to appear. Between receiving your court summons and your court date is the best juncture to consider hiring a criminal defense attorney. If you hire a criminal defense attorney now, you will have ample to time to provide your attorney with all the relevant information and formulate a strategy to achieve the best possible result for your case. If you have a criminal defense attorney, he or she will counsel you and appear in court with you to make sure you are afforded your constitutional rights during each step of the criminal justice process.
At your arraignment a judge will notify you of your rights, the charges against you and the possible penalties you may face if you plead guilty or are found guilty after a trial. If you don’t have your own criminal defense attorney at this point, you will be given the chance to have a public defender appointed to you, but only if you quality. If you do not wish to have public defender, you can still either hire an attorney or represent yourself. Finally, the last key point during the arraignment will be the plea. The judge will ask you, or your attorney if you have one, how to plea, you may plead either guilty or not guilty.
- Your Rights: In many jurisdictions, you will be given a form with a list of your rights. When your case is called, you may ask the judge to clarify anything you don’t understand.
- Charges and Penalties: The judge will list the charges and potential penalties you are facing to make sure you understand the seriousness of the charges. Acknowledging that you understand the charges does not mean you are pleading guilty to the charges.
- Legal Representation: You have the right to your own lawyer. If you cannot afford your own legal counsel, you may quality for a court-appointed attorney. A court-appointed attorney may be provided to you if
- you are eligible financially, and
- jail time is a possibility
- Your Plea: You have two choice, you may plead guilty or not guilty. Pleading guilty automatically waives your right to a trial, your right to remain silent and your right to have the state prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Many people would plead guilty here just to terminate the trial and move on with their lives. But if you have any doubt as your guilt, you should either ask for a continuance to give you time to consult an attorney or plead not guilty to move the proceedings to pretrial and give you or your attorney more time to formulate a defense strategy.
- You Plead Guilty: If you plead guilty and you are facing considerable potential jail time, the judge may not sentence you that same day. If the judge proceeds to sentencing, however, the judge may allow you to make a statement on your behalf. You may face fines, probation, jail time and other penalties. Whatever your sentencing may be, it may be effective immediately, so be prepared to be handcuffed and lead to jail if you plead guilty to a crime that usually results in jail time.
- You Plead Not Guilty: The judge will ask you whether you want a bench trial where the judge decides the case or a jury trial where six to twelve of your peers from your community who will decide the case. You will also set your pretrial conference date and your actual trial date after your plead not guilty.
Being convicted of a misdemeanor have devastating effects to your career, reputation, resources and freedom. Just the arduous process of preparing for a criminal trial can tire you out and put you at your wits end. Having a criminal defense attorney on your side can make the process easier to understand and will keep you from making costly mistakes that can jeopardize you money, time and freedom.