Criminal Defense Frequently Asked Questions
Being charged with serious crimes is overwhelming. Your future and freedom is at stake, and you likely have questions. Below, I’ve gathered a list of the most frequently asked questions I get from clients. If you have additional questions, contact me today to schedule a free consultation by calling (907) 312-1300.
Why Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
Consulting with a criminal defense lawyer is an essential first step to deal with the challenges of a criminal accusation. An attorney will be able to discuss your case personally and dedicate time to ensure you receive the best possible results for your case. An attorney will be there to listen and answer your questions and explain the different options available for you.
Anyone accused of a crime is entitled to legal representation. Private attorneys, unlike public defenders, have a smaller caseload—allowing us to spend more time and resources on your case. The more time and energy we devote to your case, the more likely we’ll be able to dismiss or reduce your charges.
If I’m Accused of a Crime, Should I Take a Plea Deal & Get it Over With?
No. Police officers make mistakes and sometimes bring charges that cannot be proven or sustained. You should never plead guilty out without having the case evaluated by an experienced criminal defense attorney. Accepting a plea deal results in larger consequences than defendants often know. It is essential to be aware of all of your options before making decisions that can have a negative impact on your future.
How Much Will it Cost to Hire Spaulding Law P.C. as My Defense Attorney?
The cost of my legal representation will primarily depend on the circumstances of your case. I will evaluate the nature and number of charges, the complexity of the issues, your criminal record, and aggravating or mitigating factors. Your initial consultation is free of charge. During your initial meeting, I will evaluate your case, and you will not be responsible for any fees until you agree to hire my firm.
Contact me today to schedule a free case review to obtain a cost for my services.
Will I Have to Appear in Court?
Every case is different, which means that not every defendant will have to attend court. You may have to appear for your arraignment, to enter a change of plea if there is one, and for trial if it is required. Beyond that, there are many types of hearings that arise to deal with evidentiary, legal or scheduling matters. If you don’t wish to appear to hearings, you can file a waiver of appearance and let your attorney take charge of these matters for you.
Should your matter proceed to trial, the decision to testify is entirely yours. As your attorney, I can advise you on the course I think you should take, but the final decision will be yours.
How Long Will it Take to Resolve My Case?
The length of time it takes to resolve a case can vary depending on the court’s schedule and the complexity of the case. You are entitled to a speedy trial—that generally takes 120 days from the time you were charged. However, cases often take longer to give the parties an opportunity to investigate the facts or assess the case’s strengths and weaknesses.
What Should I Expect at the Court Proceedings?
Arraignment is your initial appearance before the court. Here you will be informed about the charges against you, and you will be given an opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest.
If you are charged with a crime, it is at the arraignment that bail will be determined. The amount of your bail will depend on the nature of the charges, criminal history, ties to the community, and the likelihood of intimidating a witness or otherwise interfering in the administration of justice.
The Magistrate or Judge will then give you new dates to return to court.
Omnibus Hearing/Calendar Call
This hearing is to determine the progress of the case and to make sure it is going in the right direction. The purpose is for the hearing to assess the evidence, including testimony and evidence seized at the time of arrest. If there are evidentiary issues, motion hearings may be scheduled at this time. If there are no issues, the case will continue, and another hearing will be scheduled for another Omnibus Hearing, a trial, or for a change of plea.
The accused has a right to trial by jury. If he or she chooses to waive that right, they can have a trial before a Judge alone; this is called a bench trial. If charged with a misdemeanor, the jury will consist of 6 people, and if a felony, 12 people.
At trial, the prosecution has a burden of proof to establish every element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor will attempt to do this by calling witnesses to testify and introducing evidence to the court. The defense has a right to confront and question all of the State’s witnesses, as well as bring witnesses and evidence of their own to establish the defense’s case.
After hearing all the testimony and arguments of the parties the Jury (or Judge in the case of a bench trial) will determine whether or not the prosecutor has proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is set for sentencing once the accused has been found guilty of a crime. Each party has an opportunity to make arguments regarding the sentence. Ultimately the Judge will determine the sentence based a variety of factors. The Judge may be limited by statute in some cases but will consider the severity of the crime, criminal history, aspects of punishment and rehabilitation.
What Should I Expect If I’m Pulled Over on Suspicion of DUI?
A police officer must have probable cause to pull someone over. This can be as simple as a minor traffic infraction, or even an equipment violation. It is always in your best interest to be polite and cooperative when a police officer pulls you over for DUI. You should give the officer your driver’s license and insurance information when asked, and if you have it available, your attorney’s business card.
Although you should be polite, you are not required to answer any questions. You should request an attorney before you answer any questions; including whether or not you have consumed an alcoholic drink.
Next, he will ask you to perform a series of ‘voluntary’ field sobriety tests. These tests are very difficult to pass even if you haven’t consumed alcohol. In Alaska, your right to an attorney doesn’t become valid until you’re at the police station. Therefore, it is unlikely that you will be allowed to talk to your attorney while you’re in the field. Once you have been transported to the station, the police officer will attempt to take a more sophisticated breath sample, and it is in your best interest to voluntarily give this sample.
Refusing to take a blood or urine test at the station can constitute as a separate offense in Alaska. It is at the station that you should attempt to contact your attorney. Under the law, you are entitled to contact your attorney as soon as possible after you are detained.
Does It Matter If My Attorney Has Tried Cases or Has Courtroom Experience?
There are lots of different kinds of lawyers. Most lawyers rarely, if ever, see the inside of a courtroom. Working in a courtroom before a judge and against an opponent requires more than a legal education. It requires focus, a calm disposition, a familiarity with court rules and procedures, and a little mental agility. These skills are not the kind that can be gained in law school or by reading up on the topic. These skills are gained by time spent in the courtroom. Just like you want your doctor trained in his field of medicine, or your pilot flying you to have experience with his plane, if you are accused of a crime, you want your attorney to have experience in the courtroom. I have that experience. I’ve worked as a successful criminal defense attorney for over 11 years and before that as a prosecutor, working as a litigator for years in Alaska, and in Washington.
My Case Feels Hopeless, So Do I Still Need a Lawyer?
If you are accused of a crime, YES, you need a lawyer. If you find yourself thinking things like, ‘they got me,’ or ‘I did it,’ or ‘there’s no point fighting this,’ STOP. It’s more complicated than that. Police are required to follow the law and preserve your constitutional rights. They have a hard job to do, and most of the time they do a good job, but occasionally things go wrong, mistakes are made, or there are misunderstandings. There are lots of possibilities.
It is very possible that even though you think you did something wrong, it may not be illegal. It is also possible that even though an authority figure says that you did something wrong, they are mistaken. If your rights were ignored or abused, you may not even know because those people that may have ignored your rights are not going to go out of their way to tell you. It is critical that you have a lawyer to inform you of what your rights and options are, and to ensure that your rights are protected.
Should I Just Get a Public Defender?
If you cannot afford a private attorney, you absolutely should get a public defender. If you can afford a private attorney, or can get some help to pay for one, you should get a private attorney. The public defender exists for those that have no other option to provide for their defense. Our government considers a defense attorney to be so critical that it will pay for one where an individual has no other means. A public defender is paid by the state, no matter how many cases they have, and they have a lot. They have so many cases that it is unlikely that as a client you will have an opportunity to spend much time with your public defender. That availability may be important-to answer your questions, prepare for your defense, and understand your options. Private lawyers are expensive, but protecting your rights is important, and the consequences are the most serious regarding your life and your liberty. If you have the means, you have a responsibility to hire a private attorney instead of burdening an already overworked system.
Speak with a Fairbanks Criminal Defense Lawyer Today: (907) 312-1300
If you need the guidance of a criminal defense attorney, contact me today for a free case review at (907) 312-1300. I have handled hundreds of cases over the course of a decade of trial experience. I understand how overwhelming this time can be—I am dedicated to helping you get the best possible results for your case. Contact me today!