1.) I was arrested but the police didn’t read me my rights. Do I get a free pass?
This is a common misconception spawned by TV programs like Law and Order. The police may arrest you without reading you your rights. Their obligation to do so arises only if they wish to interrogate you in custody.
2.) I got busted on a DUI but I wasn’t drunk. It was the prescription painkillers my doctor gave me that made me look drunk.
A DUI refers to alcohol beyond the legal limits either alone or in combination with other drugs, even prescribed drugs. No “get out of jail free” card yet.
3.) I can plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and get 6 months probation. Is there any reason I shouldn’t take the deal?
Maybe. If you are in the United States with either a non-immigrant visa or even a green card, you may not apply for a change in status until 5 years have elapsed after your probation is over. Immigration consequences are often overlooked by the nest attorneys so make sure you bring your situation to your counselor’s attention.
4.) My attorney told me not to sweat the immigration because he can get my record sealed after I finish probation. True or false?
Careful. If the records are going to be truly sealed so no one can see them, in California you have to go through a hearing where you prove you were “factually innocent” of the original charge. DA’s always oppose these requests and, if you pled guilty originally you don’t qualify anyway.
5.) What if I plead “nolo?”
Same answers. A no contest plea may make you feel better but for all purposes the courts and the police treat it as a guilty plea.
6.) What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
A misdemeanor is a lesser crime punishable by up to one year in the county jail and a fine. A felony is a serious crime punishable by a incarceration in state prison, a place you definitely don’t want to go to. A misdemeanor is not trivial however and depending on the circumstances could bar you from certain jobs and have immigration consequences.
7.) Well, then, what’s a wobbler?
That’s lawyer talk for a crime that can be charged and punished either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. The DA will decide how to file the charge but early negotiations between your attorney and the DA might get you the misdemeanor charge.
8.) Should I use the Public Defender if I qualify?
The PD is free whereas a private criminal attorney will likely be expensive. Most PD’s are hard working conscientious people who will do the best they can for you under the circumstances of their extremely heavy, poorly paid case loads. Warning signs: if you find that you can’t call your PD and get a response within 24 hours, if your PD knows nothing about your case, if the PD has not sent an investigator to interview witnesses and examine the crime scene. In any of these circumstances you should go private if you can afford it.
9.) How can I pay a private attorney?
Most will accept financing terms, especially if you own real property which you are prepared to lien. Some firms charge lower fees to clients who seem to have a real defense and little money. Sometimes in high profile cases, an attorney will defend you for free simply to see justice done and to advance his/her career.
10.) What about the Kaman Law Group?
We accept any meritorious case and work out a suitable financing package. At the present time we are not able to accept pro bono (free) cases.