Sometimes it helps to know what others are asking.
Earlier this fall, we shared some key “Do’s and Don’ts” when facing the unthinkable and having to hire a criminal defense attorney. Helpful as those tips might be, knowing you are not alone is reassuring and important. After over three (3) decades defending criminal cases, we have prepared a list of prospective clients’ most frequently asked questions.
Top 10 Q&A
- What is the worst that can happen?
Since each criminal offense has a maximum penalty of incarceration, there is no simple answer to this question. Even when the charges are the same, every case is different with unique facts. If convicted, courts will consider a number of relevant factors – a defendant’s background, charitable works, prior record and restitution, among others – before sentencing.
- How much will representation cost?
Again, there is no one answer especially at the onset of a case. Investigative costs, expert fees and time needed to bring the matter to a successful conclusion are just some of the many variables. However, an experienced criminal attorney should be able to provide an estimate based on the initial information and past cases of a similar nature.
- Can I talk to family, friends and colleagues about my case?
Can you? Yes. Should you? No. Unlike the attorney-client relationship, there is no privilege between family, friends and colleagues. Each may be called as witnesses and required to testify under oath. This may work for or against you at a trial.
- How do cases like mine usually turn out?
With the unique nature of each case, the answer lies within the facts. Seasoned criminal defense lawyers will be able to discuss strategies and possible outcomes based on prior similar matters.
- Will I have a jury trial?
Defendants have the choice of a jury or non-jury (waiver) trial. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth may override a defendant’s request for a waiver trial and demand a trial by jury.
- If charged and/or convicted, can my record be expunged?
The short answer is yes. There are any number of instances in which case records may be “erased” or sealed. Some examples include summary offenses, certain underage convictions and cases resolved through an ARD program. A formal motion is required in most jurisdictions to have a matter expunged.
- What if I was not Mirandized by the police?
Miranda only applies to “custodial interrogations” – in other words, if you are restrained or in custody whether or not under arrest. The fact that you were not warned is not important if the Government is not claiming that you made a confession or an admission. Questions as to if and how a lack of Miranda warnings may impact your case are best answered by an attorney familiar with the situation and facts.
- Will I go to jail?
First it depends on the criminal offense and ultimately the outcome of your case. Some charges carry mandatory minimum penalties that must be imposed upon conviction. Others have sentencing guidelines that are advisory in many cases. A defense attorney well-versed in criminal law will be able to provide an overview of possible outcomes based on the specific circumstances.
- If found not guilty at trial, can I be sued civilly?
Yes. Civil damages are not the same as criminal charges and have different burden of proof requirements. There is no better example than that of O.J. Simpson, who was found not guilty at the criminal trial but he was found civilly liable for the deaths.
- Will I lose my job?
Again, this depends upon the offense, but also the job itself. Some occupations have a moral turpitude clause triggered by a criminal conviction. Loss of employment is not the only risk. If you possess a professional license, that too may be in jeopardy. Your attorney is best-suited to answer employment-related questions since they are familiar with you and your case.
While these may be some of the most frequently asked questions, the list is endless. If you have been accused of a crime or have questions regarding your rights in criminal legal matters, you should seek experienced legal counsel. To schedule a confidential consultation with the attorneys at Neff & Sedacca, P.C., contact the firm by phone at 215-563-9800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.