Here are some frequently asked questions for those facing criminal charges. The answers I am writing are general in nature. Each case is unique.
Will I end up in jail or prison?
For most people, this is the scariest question. The good news is that for most people, the answer is no. If you are facing a misdemeanor or a non violent felony and you don’t have a long criminal record, you likely will not go to jail. However, there is always that risk. Also, because your final sentence is up the judge, don’t trust a cop or prosecutor that tells you to just confess or plea to avoid jail. They don’t get to make that call.
How will a charge or conviction affect me down the road?
There is a separate blog posted that deals with some of the consequences of a criminal conviction. You need to be especially careful with sex crimes, felonies, and misdemeanors involving theft or dishonesty.
Are there options available for juvenille or first time offenders?
Yes, but these vary from county to county and court to court. Generally, a youthful first time offender can get a much better deal than an adult. The law doesn’t do much for a first time offender other than you can’t have prior convictions held against you at sentencing. Also, being convicted more than once for the same crime can sometimes increase the maximum penalty. Examples include drunk driving and retail fraud.
What is a diversionary program and can I qualify?
A diversionary program is a program in which the accused pleads guilty to a lesser charge (or sometimes the original charge) and then, if he or she completes a probationary period, the charge is dismissed and there is no public record of a conviction. These programs are not easy to qualify for. Generally, if you are not a first time offender or over 21, don’t count of these. But there are exceptions.
Can I ever get this of my record?
Michigan allows for the expungement of one crime if 5 years have passed since the conviction. A subsequent conviction of any crime makes one ineligible for expungement. There are exceptions for some minor misdemeanors.
Did the police act properly?
This question needs a careful analysis on a case by case basis. A person does have constitutional rights that the police must follow in gathering evidence but a full discussion is beyond the scope of this blog. Generally if the evidence is gathered improperly, it is not admissible against the accused.
What if I have already confessed or made a statement?
Don’t worry. It may not be admissible for a variety of reasons. Like most evidence related issues, a case by case analysis is required.
Is my case winnable?
To lose your case, the prosecution must be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. That means they need a lot of good evidence. Even if you are guilty, you may still be acquitted if the evidence simply isn’t strong enough or their witnesses are believable. Many cases are winnable if the accused is willing to fight it hard enough and long enough.
Can I afford a good attorney?
Hiring a good attorney is expensive. To fully fight your case, your attorney is going to have to put in a lot of time and effort and spend money on his business to provide you the best possible outcome. You do get what you pay for. Many people decided it is not worth it. That is a personal choice. Look long and hard at the long term outcome of losing and then decide.