What to Know About Being Charged with a Crime in CA
The criminal justice system can be daunting. If you have been charged with a crime, you might be feeling stressed and anxious because of the unknowns you’re facing. This blog discusses what you can expect when facing criminal charges. Because of the complexities of the law, it’s difficult to cover everything. We hope this overview helps remove some of the uncertainties and alleviates some of your worries.
If you want more information or are looking for legal representation in Santa Rosa, please contact the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. at (707) 418-5352.
You Might Not Know You’re a Suspect Right Away
Some criminal cases begin with an arrest. The police officer might have seen the individual engage in criminal activity, or they received a report of a crime and have probable cause to take a person into custody.
However, that might not happen in your case. Law enforcement officials might conduct a lengthy investigation before naming you as a suspect and handing their file to the prosecutor. You might not know you’re alleged to have been involved in criminal conduct until authorities knock at your door.
You Have Rights After Being Charged with a Crime
Although you might have been charged with a crime, you still have constitutional rights.
These protections include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The right to remain silent,
- The right to an attorney,
- The right to due process, and
- The right to a fair trial.
It’s important to exercise your rights and ensure that authorities do not trample upon them. For example, you can remain silent and not make statements to police officers, preventing you from saying anything self-incriminating. Or, if you have been subject to an unlawful search and seizure, you could file a motion with the court to have certain pieces of evidence deemed inadmissible.
You Can Face Serious Penalties for a Conviction
The consequences of a criminal conviction can be severe and lasting, making it hard for you to re-enter society after you have completed your sentence. For a misdemeanor, you may face up to one year in jail. For a felony, you may be sentenced to more than one year in prison.
In addition to these penalties, depending on the offense, a conviction can also result in the following:
- The loss of driving privileges,
- A requirement to register as a sex offender,
- Victim restitution, and
- Other sanctions the court sees fit.
Your criminal record will also have a mark on it. You can face a social stigma, which can make it difficult to find a place to live, find a job, and become a productive member of society.
You Can Seek to Reduce or Avoid Penalties
Depending on the severity of the crime you’ve been charged with, you could be looking at a prison sentence, a fine, or both. However, you could take some steps to reduce or avoid penalties. For instance, you can conduct your own investigation, identify weaknesses in the prosecution's proof, and challenge the accusations against you. You can also demonstrate mitigating circumstances to argue for leniency in sentencing.
It's a good idea to get help from a criminal defense attorney who can analyze evidence, develop your case, and present arguments inside and outside the courtroom.
You Might Not Have to Go to Trial
Some criminal cases may go to trial. A trial can be lengthy and stressful, with greater uncertainties because a judge or jury decides the outcome. Your case might not go this route. You may be able to resolve it through a plea deal.
A plea deal is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor to settle outside the courtroom. The defendant pleads guilty to a crime in exchange for a reduced sentence or another form of leniency.
The main benefits of accepting a plea deal are that you have more control over the outcome of your case and may avoid some of the uncertainties of trial. However, plea deals are not always available. Consult an attorney to determine if a plea deal is right for your case.
You Can Receive Legal Help Through the Justice System
While it is possible to represent yourself in court, it is generally not recommended. The stakes are simply too high to go up against the prosecution on your own.
As mentioned earlier, you have the right to legal representation. A criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of the justice system and protect your rights. They will work with you to build a legal strategy that considers all the evidence in your case, including your side of the story, and pursue a just outcome.
Get Started on Your Defense Today
The unknowns in a criminal case can make the matter even more overwhelming. However, by understanding what to expect, your rights, and the steps you can take, you are more prepared to navigate your case. Still, because of the nuances of the law and the various rules and procedures you must follow, doing anything without legal representation may not be the best course of action. For that reason, reach out to a defense lawyer for help.