Criminal Defense and DUI

What To Expect

If the police have arrested you and the police want a statement, what do you do? To protect your rights, the very first thing you should do is: ask to speak to a lawyer.

Criminal defense begins from the moment you stand suspected or accused of a crime. Hatcher Law Offices wants you to know that the police often make promises of leniency or say it is your duty to cooperate. However, once you are a suspect, the police are not your friends. If they are asking you questions, or make promises trying to get you to make a statement, you may be a suspect.

This means everything you say in their presence can be used against you, so tell them nothing. Ask for a lawyer and shut up. Do not let their promises or threats scare you into talking when it can become evidence.

If you are going to be charged, it will be because of the evidence the police have. If there is enough evidence, they will charge you. If they don’t have evidence, they will not. If you talk to them, the only evidence they ever get may be your own statement!

Criminal Defense: What you can expect when arrested

What you can expect, if you are arrested, is that you will be “booked.” You can expect to be processed into your local jail, where you will be fingerprinted and photographed. You can expect to be placed in a holding cell until you are brought before a magistrate or judge. The judge or magistrate may not ask you if you are guilty. Their role is to set a bail bond, and see if you need an attorney.

Unless the violence of your alleged crime is extreme, you should have the option to be released on bond. Certain charges, such as murder, may have no bond at all. Minor offenses may see you released on a personal recognizance bond, but these are rare.

Usually, a bail bondsman will charge a fixed percentage of the bail amount as their fee for posting the bond. A typical amount is ten percent. They are basically making you a loan to purchase your temporary release. If you fail to appear in court, the bondsman loses his money and can come looking for you or your family’s assets to pay him back. You will not get this money back when your case is over.

A date is set for you to appear before a judge for an “arraignment.” This is the time when you may plead guilty or innocent. At this stage, you may be appointed a lawyer if you could not afford one, or you may be given time to hire one.

If you have not already done so, you will need to hire a lawyer. In order to have the court appoint an attorney, you will have to provide evidence that you cannot afford one. After the arraignment, your case may be set for at least one hearing date (called a “preliminary hearing,”) for you to decide whether or not to enter a plea bargain. There may be settings for Motion Hearings and other hearings at this time.

Felony charges may bring you to be indicted by a Grand Jury before your case proceeds to trial. A grand jury is a panel of people who hear the State’s version of the evidence and decide if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. You have no legal right to present evidence at this hearing or even attend. If you do attend, you have no right to legal counsel in the hearing room. You cannot be compelled to testify at the hearing.

After you have been indicted, a prosecutor may offer you a plea recommendation. You are not required to enter any kind of plea bargain. In a criminal case, you basically have two choices at any time: (1) you can negotiate and enter a plea agreement; or (2) set your case for trial and let a jury decide.

No one can make the prosecutor offer a better deal than they offer. They cannot make you accept a plea recommendation that you do not want. If you refuse the offer and cannot reach an agreement, then trial is your only alternative.

Criminal Defense: Criminal Trial by Jury and Your Rights

A criminal trial is different than a civil case. The prosecutor goes first in selecting a jury, making their opening statement, presenting witnesses, and making their closing argument. In some states, the prosecutor goes his or her closing argument first and last. You do not have to testify at trial. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution gives you the right to not testify. This can be important. If you testify and have many prior convictions, the prosecutor will get to talk to the jury about these prior offenses. If you do not testify, the jury may never hear about these prior offenses.

In a jury trial, your experiences carry a lot of weight with the members and what they believe. This may mean that if the jury hears about your prior offenses, they may be more likely to accept the prosecutor’s version of the case, and that you committed the crime with which you are being charged. In some instances, it can be better to not testify, if you have a prior criminal record.

In the end, if the jury finds you are not guilty, you are free to go home. If they find you guilty, you proceed to sentencing. Possible consequences of a conviction are incarceration in the Department of Corrections, incarceration in a State Jail facility, incarceration in the County Jail, probation, fines, and many other possibilities.

This describes an average experience with the criminal justice system. There may be some differences, depending on where you have been charged. Many court procedures aim to intimidate you into entering a plea bargain. Large crowds and audiences will be at virtually every hearing. Prosecutors and court personnel will be pushing people through like a heard of cattle, with the object of disposing of cases as quickly as possible.

Hatcher Law Offices will throw a wrench in their works by establishing early on that your case will not be disposed of quickly, and that you will not take whatever ‘bargains’ they feel like offering. This is why it is important to have a strong defense attorney working with you on your criminal case.

Criminal Defense: DUI Arrests

WV State Traffic Code/DUI Chapter 17

West Virginia DUI law is similar to that of many other states, in that a West Virginia DUI arrest triggers two separate and unrelated cases. DUI laws in West Virginia provide for a criminal court case, where DUI punishment includes jail, fines, educational programs, and the possibility of an ignition interlock being required, driver’s license suspension, and more.

It also gives rise to a second case in the Division of Motor Vehicles, where your WV driving privileges are at stake. The West Virginia DUI DMV court action is separate and apart from the criminal court action. It requires you (or your lawyer) to act quickly to save your license following an arrest for driving under the influence in West Virginia.

If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher, you can be charged with driving under the influence; however, BAC levels of more than .05 and less then .08 is considered relevant evidence to presume you were operating a vehicle with your ability impaired. You may still lose your license if your BAC is under the legal limit of .08.

If arrested for a DUI or impairment charge, call Hatcher Law Offices NOW. DUI could cost you more than you ever imagined.