How Do You Defend Against Criminal Law Charges?

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How Do You Defend Against Criminal Law Charges?

Criminal laws are serious matters with a lot at stake. When a person chooses or is accused of certain behaviors that are considered illegal and punishable by imprisonment according to federal and state laws, they could have certain rights taken from them (such as driving due to a DUI), detainment, jail time, life imprisonment, or they could be given the death penalty.

Criminal cases make up one branch of the two types of cases in our legal system, the other being civil cases. Laws against criminal acts are in place to protect society from people that cause significant harm to others and/or take or destroy worldly goods. Not all crimes are equal in severity, and therefore, not all punishment is so severe, but if a person is convicted of a felony, it could make it difficult to find a job or rent a place to live.

In a criminal case, prosecutors pursue charges of violators, and the job of defense attorneys is to protect the innocent from undue punishment or advocate for their client so that the punishment truly fits the crime.

What is Considered Criminal Charges?


(1st degree, 2nd degree, voluntary, involuntary)

Drug Charges

(Trafficking, Manufacturing, Possession, and even medical marijuana)

Property Crimes

(Theft/Burglary/Robbery, Shoplifting, Larceny, Arson, Vandalism)

Sex Crimes

(Indecent exposure, Sexual assault, Prostitution, Solicitation, Rape, Statutory Rape)

Crimes Against the Person

(Assault, battery, aggravated assault, domestic violence, harassment, hate crimes, kidnapping, stalking)

Crimes Against Children

(Abuse, Pornography, Abandonment, statutory rape)

Fraud and Financial Crimes

(Bribery, Mortgage Fraud, Fraud, Racketeering/RICO, Embezzlement, Securities Fraud, Identity Theft, Tax Evasion/Fraud, Money Laundering, While Collar Crimes)

Cyber Crimes

(Computer, Sexting, Cyberbullying, Identity Theft)

Alcohol Crimes

(DUI/DWI, Open Container, Minor in Possession, Public Intoxication)

Crimes Against Justice

(Criminal Contempt of Court, Probation Violation, Perjury, and many more)

Public Safety Violations

(Disorderly Conduct, Public Intoxication, Disturbing the Peace, View All Criminal Charges)

Curfew Laws

(Breaking Juvenile Curfew Laws)

Crime Against the Government

(Rioting/Inciting Riots, Espionage, Sedition, Treason, Terrorism/Terroristic Threats, Flag Burning)

Animal Cruelty

As of January 2016,
the FBI now considers it this a Class A Felony.
(Neglect, Intentional Abuse/Torture, Organized Abuse, Sexual Abuse)

It is important to note that each state has its own criminal code and Congress has determined what constitutes as federal criminal law.

State Criminal Laws

State laws can vary for almost every offense, and some of these laws can change over time. For example, some states only list prostitution as illegal, but in Colorado, pimping and solicitation are also illegal acts. Another example is that Texas allows capital punishment, while others do not. Have you taken a moment to learn the criminal laws in your state?

Know Your Constitutional Rights

  • Miranda Rights- You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
  • 4th Amendment Rights- You are protected from unreasonable search, seizure, and arrest. Furthermore, there is an Exclusionary Rule that mandates that any evidence of illegal arrest, unreasonable search, or coercive interrogation has to be excluded from the trial. The doctrine that applies to this is called the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Be mindful, however, of the Carroll doctrine, that permits an officer to entirely search a motor vehicle if there is probable cause.
  • 6th Amendment Rights- You have the right to confront anyone who accuses you of a crime. Cross-examination is an example.
  • Right to Legal Counsel- You have the right to competent counsel, even upon appeal.
  • Right to Speedy Trial- You have the right to a trial within a “reasonable” amount of time.
  • Protection from Double Jeopardy- No one can be tried twice for the same crime.
  • Protection from Cruel and Unusual Punishment- You have the right to be protected from unduly harsh punishment.
  • Prisoners’ Civil Rights- The convicted and incarcerated still have basic civil human rights.

Expungement (also called “Expunction”)

An arrest or criminal conviction is “sealed.” This makes the crime erased from a person’s criminal record. Only certain government agencies will be able to access documentation showing that the crime ever took place. The availability and procedure varies by state and even county. Some states do not allow expungement at all. There are lawyers that offer free evaluations to help with this.

Charged with a Federal Crime?

Here is the legal process.

  1. Complaint/Indictment

    This leads to an affidavit (explains the crime), and Arrest Warrant obtained by law enforcement

  2. Initial Appearance

    The accused will appear before a Magistrate Judge to determine court representation and detainment.

  3. Detention Hearing

    This must be held within three working days if an offender is detained, but may be extended for good cause. The purpose is to determine detainment or potential release while trial is pending.

  4. Preliminary Hearing

    (The accused has the right to have this within ten days of arrest). Probable cause is established here, and the accused may have a defense attorney provide witness evidence on their behalf. This hearing determines if the prosecutor has enough evidence to justify further criminal proceedings against the accused.

  5. Grand Jury

    This is where the final decision to prosecute takes place.

  6. Indictment (“True Bill”, a formal accusation)

    This is sought and filed against the suspect, and it is required for a felony or “otherwise infamous” crime. The indictment can be waived by the accused if they choose to plead guilty, then the matter does not go to the grand jury. Instead, an Information is filed with the Federal District Court.

  7. Arraignment

    Within 10 days of indictment, this takes place with the Magistrate Judge. The accused is now officially the defendant. Defendant states plea of guilty or not guilty. A trial date is set, motion hearings are scheduled. The defendant has the right to trial within 70 days from their initial appearance in Federal District Court.

  8. Plea Agreement

    Innocence/Guilt is determined. A trial may need to take place if a defendant makes a plea of not guilty and if the U.S. Attorney and defense attorney cannot reach this agreement.

  9. Trial

    This is the trial where a jury of randomly selected citizens will serve as the jury. Witnesses are called, the evidence is presented. If the defendant is convicted, the pre-sentencing process begins. The defendant has the right to choose for the judge to hear the case and make the ruling without a jury.

  10. Pre-Sentencing

    Federal Probation Office makes a recommendation for sentencing to the Federal District Court Judge.
    Sentencing, this usually takes place around eight weeks after guilt has been determined.

  11. Appeal

    The defendant has the right to appeal the determination of guilt, the sentence, or both. They must file a Notice of Appeal within ten days from the sentencing/Judgment date.

Criminal Punishment

These can vary by state.

FELONY Crimes (“true crimes”):

These are more serious offenses, like murder, rape, arson, robbery, etc. They are categorized by either class A-E, X, or levels 1-6, depending on the state.

  • Felonies are typically punishable by imprisonment of over a year or more
    • Life/ Maximum prison terms, with the least serious being up to three years
    • Death Penalty


These are less serious offenses, like petty theft or jaywalking. They are categorized by classes A-C

  • Misdemeanors are typically punishable by a fine and incarceration in a local county jail that is typically less than one year.
  • License connected to the offense may be suspended or revoked.

Since so much hangs in the balance, you should always work a criminal defense lawyer with a history of success. Even innocence is not always an ironclad defense – law enforcement and prosecutors may not care about your side of the story, but will simply focus on getting a conviction. An attorney can work to enforce your rights and expose any misconduct or negligence that may have led to your arrest. In many cases, a good lawyer can get your charges or penalties reduced, minimizing the negative impact on your life.

No matter what kinds of charges you face, from a misdemeanor to a felony, finding an attorney you trust is essential. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it is essential for you to get adequate representation. Go here to find a qualified lawyer.



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