Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense
Many clients come to us with similar questions because they’ve never had to deal with the criminal justice system before. Feel free to peruse the questions and answers on this page and then contact us with any additional questions not addressed here.
What should I do to protect myself when being arrested?
The law enforcement officer is usually required to read you your Miranda rights. The two most important ones to utilize right away are the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
You are not required to answer questions or give any statements without a lawyer present. Generally speaking, it is in your best interests to say as little as possible until an attorney shows up to counsel you. If you can’t afford an attorney, you will be provided with one. Speaking and answering questions alone almost never works to your advantage. It is better to stay silent until you have a defense attorney by your side.
Overall, when being arrested, it is important to be calm and cooperate with instructions while not communicating any more than absolutely necessary.
Can I refuse to allow a law enforcement search?
Typically, a police officer can conduct a search only if they have obtained a warrant or if you give consent. If the officer is asking for permission to search, you absolutely do not have to give it (and are likely safer if you refuse). You can also ask to see the warrant if they claim to have one.
The officer may choose to conduct the search even without your consent, but that puts you in a better position to challenge the search later in court. If you consent, though, you have no recourse for anything found during the search.
How will I know if I should plead guilty or go to trial?
This is a decision only you can make, but you should make it after consulting with your defense attorney. Sometimes, if the evidence against you is especially strong, a plea deal might be your best chance for a favorable resolution. But if the evidence against you is weak or may have been obtained in violation of your rights, your lawyer may tell you that trial is the better option.
Is there anything I can do to clear my criminal record?
Under some circumstances, you can either have a criminal conviction erased (through a process called expungement) or removed from publicly available records (known as sealing). There are some differences between expungement and record sealing, but the terms are often used interchangeably, and that is fine for most purposes.
In order to qualify, you need to wait a certain period of time after all terms of your sentence have been completed, then submit an application to the court to have your record sealed or expunged. Each court tends to have its own rules and procedures, so it is a good idea to work with an experienced attorney during this important process.
Does it matter which attorney represents me?
In a word: yes. Public defenders are often good lawyers who want to do right by their clients, but they are typically overworked and underfunded. Therefore, they probably can’t give your case the attention it deserves.
When hiring a private defense attorney, you’ll want to find one with a strong record of success on behalf of clients. No attorney can guarantee results, but past performance is often a good indicator of skill and competence.
Have More Questions? Contact Us For Answers.
The Laura Helmbrecht, Attorney at Law, firm is based in Columbus, Ohio, and serves clients throughout the surrounding area. For answers to questions about your case, contact us to schedule an initial consultation. Call 614-370-7897 or send us an email to get started.