Criminal Defense Help

Being accused of a criminal offense can be frightening. But it's important to remember that the criminal defense system in the U.S. presumes innocence. That means that you are legally innocent of a crime until you have been proven guilty in court.

If you've been charged with a crime, you may want to consult with a criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer can help you fight the charges against you and advise you about how to move forward so that your rights are protected.

What Happens During a Criminal Case?

One of the most common questions people have after being charged with a crime is about what they can expect from the legal system as their criminal case progresses. Here's a look at some elements of a criminal defense case:

  • The arrest: This is typically the beginning of a criminal case and occurs when an individual is apprehended by law enforcement officers.
  • Booking and posting bail: After being arrested, an individual is processed into the legal system through the process of booking. After being booked, a person may have to post bail in order to be released from police custody.
  • Arraignment: In most criminal cases, this is the first time an individual charged with a crime appears in court. During arraignment, the judge attends to certain formalities, including relaying the charges and asking for a plea. The judge also outlines dates for the remainder of the legal proceedings.
  • Plea bargain: In some instances, the major players in a criminal case (the person charged with a crime, the judge, the criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor) may agree to a plea bargain.
  • Trial process: This process may include preliminary hearings, pre-trial motions, the trial itself and sentencing, if the person is found guilty.
  • Appeals process: Individuals found guilty of a crime have the opportunity to challenge their conviction through the appeals process. A criminal defense lawyer can explain this process and its applications in more detail.

What Rights Do I Have in a Criminal Defense Case?

The U.S. Constitution declares that a person accused of a crime is considered innocent until he or she can be proven guilty, and there are several laws in effect to uphold that provision. These laws include:

  • Rights when dealing with the police: Police officers must follow specific guidelines when they make arrests or gather evidence. In order to perform certain types of searches, for example, police officers must have a warrant. And during arrests, police must advise people of their famous Miranda rights.
  • Rights during court proceedings: During a criminal defense trial, defendants enjoy the right to a lawyer and to a fair and speedy trial along with rights that protect against self-incrimination and double jeopardy.
  • Rights after a conviction: Those who are found guilty of a criminal offense have the right to appeal their case and the right to legal counsel during the first appeal. Further, those convicted of crimes are protected against cruel and unusual punishment.

Criminal rights cover a variety of areas and may vary depending on where in the state you live. If you'd like to learn more about what sorts of protections are available to you, you can speak with a criminal defense attorney practicing in your state.

What Happens if I'm Convicted of a Crime?

Life after a criminal conviction can take a number of different forms. And a criminal conviction on your record can impact your life in many ways. Here's a look at some of them:

  • Your criminal record: Having a criminal record could affect your ability to get a job or rent a home. In some cases, a criminal record comes with crime-specific penalties, including restrictions on where you can live or increases in your insurance rates. A lawyer can explain in more detail the effects of a criminal record on life after conviction.
  • Sealed and expunged criminal records: In certain situations, those convicted of specific criminal offenses have the opportunity of expunging (clearing) or sealing their criminal records after a given period of time. Clearing and sealing a criminal record are both legal procedures that require significant knowledge of state and federal laws. If you're interested in learning whether you qualify for expungement or record sealing, contact a criminal defense lawyer.
  • Wrongful convictions: The American criminal justice system isn't perfect. It is possible for a person to be convicted of a crime he or she didn't commit. In cases where convictions can be erased in the appeals process, some states offer compensation for those who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime. If you've been wrongfully convicted, get in touch with a criminal defense lawyer to learn what steps you need to take to set the record straight.

Criminal cases are serious business. If you're facing criminal charges, take control of your life by contacting a criminal defense lawyer today.

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