As a criminal defense attorney I get asked all sorts of questions when someone calls me for the first time. In this article I’ll try to address some common questions that I receive.
The Whole Case Seems Pretty Cut and Dry, Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Many people call me and say that what I do seems cut and dry, so why do they need a lawyer at all? When I speak with potential clients, I explain the court process and the law in the most straightforward manner possible.
I do this for two reasons. First, we don’t have all day to talk. Explaining every little thing a criminal defense lawyer must do would be tedious. Second, going over over every nuance is not what the potential client really needs to hear at this stage. Down the road there will be a time to go into great detail, but the first phone call will not be that time. This straightforward manner of explanation leaves the potential client feeling as if the process is very simple and there’s no need for a lawyer. The reality is nothing could be further than the truth.
Take the drunk driving charge of Operating While Intoxicated. Once a lawyer is retained on an OWI case, there are many little things that must be done immediately. The lawyer must draft Freedom of Information Act requests – often to a police agency and the Michigan State Police. Discovery requests must be sent to the prosecution. The lawyer must have the knowledge and expertise to draft these correctly and file them in the correct manner.
Also, the lawyer may have to file an MCR 2.610 objection to the introduction of a forensic test if there has been a blood draw. Potential clients won’t learn about this in the initial phone call, but this is something the criminal defense attorney must do in an OWI case with a blood draw.
Once we get the videos of the arrest we must evaluate the case. We must determine if the traffic stop is valid. This requires knowledge of the traffic violation laws. Then we must see if the officer performed field sobriety tests correctly. This requires knowledge of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration manuals.
We will have studied the background and scientific testing for the Field Sobriety tests. Learning the two areas mentioned in just this paragraph requires dozens and dozens if not hundreds of hours of learning. This is a small fraction of what criminal defense lawyer puts into the beginning stages of representation on a DUI or OWI case. Does it still seem cut and dry?
It’s not cut and dry. However, the process may seem cut and dry during the first phone call to the attorney’s office. As the process moves forward you will just how what criminal defense attorneys do (if done properly of course) is complicated and valuable.
I Plead Guilty at Court a Few Days Ago, What Can I Do?
I get this call a lot. The best thing would have been to call me before you plead guilty. Many people plead guilty and then regret it the next day, realizing they may not have exercised their rights. Sometimes things at court are so rushed you may not understand what happened.
When you plead guilty, the judge will inform you of your right to a trial, either by judge or jury, your right to have a lawyer represent you, and your right to be on bond awaiting trial. These are all important rights that you give up once you plead guilty.
The avenue for relief is a Motion to Withdraw a Guilty Plea. These are difficult motions to succeed on. There are several criminal defense lawyers out there who specialize in these motions, and I usually refer the potential client to these lawyers.
What Happens if I Just Go in and Plead Guilty?
Except under very limited and exceptional circumstances, I would never recommend a defendant in a criminal case just show up to court and plead guilty. I understand what people are asking when they pose this question, though. They’re asking if having a lawyer will make a difference.
Not to sound self-serving, but yes a lawyer will make a difference. If you cannot afford a lawyer, then you should still see if you can speak with the public defender’s officer or receive a court appointed attorney.
A criminal defense attorney will be able to look over your case and determine potential challenges. Perhaps you do not need to plead guilty at all. Perhaps you didn’t even commit a crime. Fight the urge to simply walk in and “get it over with.”
A conviction may have consequences for you that could last years. Once you’re convicted, you can expunge most crimes but that is not until 5 years after your sentence ends, so more likely at least 6 years.
Any traffic related offense can never be expunged. A conviction can impact job opportunities and the ability to get a professional license. Slow down before pleading guilty and speak with an attorney about your options and the consequences of each option. Information is key. The last thing you want to do is simply walk into court and plead guilty.
Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
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ArborYpsi Law is a Washtenaw County Criminal Defense Law Firm. Our focus is 100% on criminal defense work. We represent people charged with a variety of offenses, including driving under the influence, assault and battery, domestic violence, drug crimes, and theft crimes.
Have you been charged with a crime and would like to know more? Call us to see how we can help. We can talk on the phone to see what the issues are. Then come to our office for a free initial consultation, and we will explain the law and your options. We can see if we are the right attorney for you.
Driver’s License Restoration
At ArborYpsi Law we also help many people regain driving privileges through Michigan Secretary of State Driver’s License Restoration hearing. Have you lost your license from too many DWI conviction? It can be frustrating to try and regain your license. Don’t do it alone. We will help throughout the entire process. We have a lot of experience in this field.
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Ann Arbor Traffic Ticket Attorney
We regularly represent clients on traffic tickets and traffic misdemeanors in the 15th District Court of Ann Arbor. We’re at this court several times a week. Traffic tickets and other traffic violations are almost a fact of life and are sometimes unavoidable. What is avoidable are the consequences that come with the ticket. Some civil infraction tickets can carry points on your driving record and look nasty to insurance companies. See how we can help to avoid this for you. As your traffic ticket attorney, you would not even need to show up to court. Have us go to court for you, and we’ll just call from the court.
We also represent clients on traffic ticket or civil infraction matters in Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Chelsea, Pittsfield Township, and Saline. Give us a call to see how we can help. Don’t let traffic tickets hurt your driver’s license. An experienced attorney can make your life easier. It is worth both your time and money to fight a traffic ticket.