A criminal conviction in state or federal court can mean serious consequences. Years in jail, substantial fines, a permanent record as a felon, irreparable damage to your reputation, strict conditions of probation — you name it.
However, you do not have to plead without advice. You have rights. From arraignment to appeals, trials to expungements, our skilled attorneys are here to help you navigate the entire process, protect your future, and help you thrive and succeed.
A criminal defense lawyer can help in a variety of different ways, from before you’re even arrested to the trial to the appeals process if necessary. Everything, though, that a lawyer does on your behalf is focused on protecting your rights and making sure that you get fair treatment.
From the position of being investigated, accused, or the defendant in a trial, it can feel like you have anything but a fair shot and defending yourself. You are often a lone individual standing opposite the entire governmental justice system.
You don’t have to despair, though, in the face of what seems like insurmountable odds. You have a number of legally explicit rights that ensure that you are given a chance at defending yourself and avoiding a guilty verdict. It’s the job of your lawyer to understand every one of those rights and see that they are respected.
Most people may not initially recognize the importance of their rights being protected during the investigation part of the criminal process. However, even before an arrest, there are rights that you have, so long as you don’t waive them. You have the right to avoid self-incrimination and to remain silent. You also have rights against warrantless searches and other unjustified measures.
Therefore, it’s critical that you contact our offices if you find out that you are being investigated for a crime. We can help you understand the rights that you have and how to exercise them. In addition to that, the sooner we understand and are aware of your situation, the sooner we can begin thinking about crafting a defense. For instance, we can help ensure that you don’t accidentally discard any evidence that may be helpful for your defense in a trial.
If you are arrested, then it’s critical that you have a lawyer with you as soon as possible. They can help ensure that your rights are protected and you don’t say something that could later be used against you in court. Knowing that you have been arrested can also allow us to begin or continue our investigation into the situation.
Speaking of the investigation, this is one of the most important things that your criminal defense lawyer can do on your behalf. It’s their job to take a look at all aspects of your case and understand what can be used for a defense. Each case is unique, so exactly how they investigate your situation will depend upon the nature of the accusation. A homicide case is going to be investigated very differently than accusations of a “white collar” crime of some sort. Some of the things they might do in the course of the investigation include:
Your lawyer is responsible for putting together a defense that can be used in a criminal trial. They may start formulating some ideas about how to do this even while they are still heavily involved in their investigation efforts.
An important part of the preparation of a defensive strategy is considering the approach that the prosecution will take. Your lawyer needs to consider how the prosecutor might argue the case. This can allow them to prepare ways to question the validity of the prosecution’s evidence and testimony, when appropriate, as well as demonstrate the holes in their narrative.
A strong defense isn’t just reactive, though, and your lawyer may also prepare a proactive defensive argument. This can take a number of different forms, from arguing your innocence by using things like an alibi and counter-evidence to arguing a justification for the act, such as self-defense, where appropriate. Preparing this can involve further investigation, including studying relevant case law.
Your lawyer can act as your representative in all phases of the judicial process. This could mean helping negotiate a plea bargain if that seems like the most prudent choice, and it could mean arguing on your behalf through a trial, sentencing, and appeals as necessary.
At every phase, their job is to ensure that you are afforded every right and protection due to you. Only by working with the right criminal defense lawyer can you be confident that you are being defended by every means possible.
People don’t want to live in areas where criminal activity regularly occurs. For this reason, being “hard on crime” is never really a losing issue for politicians. “Tough on crime” legislation means that there are significant penalties for criminal activity, which are thought to act as a deterrent for criminal behavior.
Felonies, of course, carry the harshest penalties, but even misdemeanors can have significant repercussions. Some of the potential penalties in criminal cases include:
Not all the consequences of a criminal conviction are limited to the legal realm. There are extralegal consequences as well. There are social, career, financial, and educational costs that, while not legally regulated, are a reality of a criminal conviction and the criminal record that comes along with it. Some of these costs include:
It’s important to understand the statute of limitations rules in North Carolina, as they are some of the friendliest to prosecutors in the country. In most states, crimes come with a statute of limitations, which limits how much time can pass from when a crime occurs to when it can be prosecuted.
The idea is that, over time, the likelihood of convicting the correct person lessens. Evidence, for instance, is much less reliable with the passage of time. Physical evidence can become damaged or degraded, and eyewitness testimony becomes much less reliable as age and other memories crowd out what may have been valuable testimony much nearer to the incident.
Generally, the more significant the crime, the longer the statute of limitations. Few states, though, are as wide open on this as North Carolina. In this state, most misdemeanors must result in charges being brought within two years.
There are some expectations, though. There are certain misdemeanors for which the statute of limitations is pushed out to ten years. These include:
While most states have only a handful of crimes for which there is no statute of limitations, in North Carolina all felonies and even some misdemeanors, classified as “malicious misdemeanors,” have no statute of limitations. This means that it’s important to work with a skilled criminal defense lawyer in these cases. They know how to identify the ways in which the prosecution’s evidence may be unreliable and expose those flaws.
If you are arrested, those moments can be some of the most important for your eventual trial and defense. It’s not that you can win a case in those moments, but you certainly could lose it. Of course, no one expects that you are going to be able to handle that situation perfectly, as it involves a wide array of emotions and thoughts.
If you can remember three basic principles, though, it can help ensure that you protect yourself from saying or doing something that could hurt your case. The three most important things to remember are:
Your lawyer is responsible for defending against the charges against you, but it’s important to remember that the burden of proof is still on the prosecution. They are responsible for persuading the judge and the jury that you are guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that the defense, to win the case, will need to create a “reasonable doubt” in the minds of the jury.
In many cases, defensive strategies can be built around this idea. For instance, the presentation of an alibi can create doubt as to whether the defendant could have even been present to commit the crime. Another method is to attack the prosecution’s evidence.
This is particularly relevant in light of North Carolina’s lengthy and sometimes non-existent statutes of limitations. One strategy can be to attack the validity of any evidence that has degraded and memories that have faded.
In some cases, it can be impossible to deny that an action that would normally be criminal occurred. However, this doesn’t mean that there is no possible defense. A case can be made that the action was not criminal because of the circumstances surrounding the situation. Self-defense, for instance, is an example of this kind of defense.
It is possible that the court could offer you a public defender at no cost to you. However, if you can at all afford it, you should consider trying to hire an attorney yourself. Public defenders are often overworked and usually can’t give defendants’ cases the attention that they deserve.
Hiring a lawyer means getting someone who can devote whatever time and effort is necessary to give you the defense that you need. It also means that you get to decide who defends you rather than working with whoever is just given to you.
That, of course, leads to the issue of just what traits you should look for in a criminal defense lawyer. Some of the most important characteristics include:
With a track record of success and dedication to protecting clients’ rights built during his over two decades of experience, including time spent as a public defender, our founding attorney, Steven T. Meier, and his team of lawyers will help safeguard your interests during every twist and turn of the legal process.
Almost anyone can become suddenly embroiled in legal trouble, no matter your age, income or life experience. Whether you’re a professional person or business owner who is being investigated for a white collar crime such as fraud or embezzlement, or a college student who is facing possible underage drinking charges, you need dedicated, tenacious representation.
That’s where we come in. We are committed to providing quality representation. That means we’ll listen intently to you, learn about your case and negotiate skillfully with prosecutors. If it is necessary to go to trial, you can count on us for thorough preparation and a persuasive presentation of your case.
If you would like to discuss your case or that of a loved one, call us at 704-333-3456. You can also fill out our online contact form to receive a prompt response.
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