How Does A Prior Arrest Or Conviction Impact A Criminal Case?
There is a difference between an arrest and a conviction. A prior conviction may result in increased bail, impeachment during cross examination, and the prosecution may be free to ask about that conviction if the defendant were to testify at trial. It can also create an increased sentence if you are convicted on the present offense, depending on what the prior conviction was and how long ago it was. More serious and more recent prior convictions will affect one’s present case more seriously. If it was more distant in time and less serious, a prior conviction will not have much effect at all.
An arrest that still might be pending at the time that we are dealing with this case affects us in a very different way. First of all, if you are going to make a deal with the prosecution, you want to try to make a deal that covers both arrests. Why leave a case open that one could have (possibly) resolved without further harm.
A prior conviction could also affect the evidence at trial. For example, the prosecutor may cross-examine the accused on his criminal record.
A prior conviction sometimes increases the severity of the charge, or the length of the sentence.
A prior conviction may affect bail.
In some cases, the court will allow the prosecutor prove intent, motive, a unique scheme or identity.
What Should I Be Looking For In Hiring A Criminal Defense Attorney? What Are Some Red Flags?
The first red flag when you go in and talk to a criminal defense lawyer is if you hear the words “I promise.” You should be very alert that you’ve got a salesman, you don’t have a criminal defense lawyer. Any good criminal defense lawyer knows that it’s going to take a lot of investigation and talking to many sources, not just the client, before the defense lawyer knows or feels reasonably confident that he has a good handle on the facts of the case. Promises are just a sales pitch. They are probably not something that you should be listening to, and perhaps they should be telling you to leave this lawyer and go to somebody else.
The thing that you want to see in a good criminal defense lawyer is, and this is true of any kind of lawyer, if they give you the time to explain what’s going on in your case and in your life. Many cases involve somebody who has lived a clean life for most of their years, and suddenly they have two or three alcohol related offenses or a domestic violence offense, which can sometimes be explained by what’s going on in their life. They just got served with divorce papers, they just got served with foreclosure papers, or they are enduring some other triggering event. If the lawyer gives you the time and asks the probing questions to find out not just what occurred on the date of the offense, but what is going on in your life so that they can have a full picture, they are going to be able to advocate both to the prosecutor and to the court on your behalf far more effectively than if all they know is what occurred on the night you committed the crime. There is often much more going on than the crime. It’s part of the lawyer’s job to figure out what else is going on. One cannot do that if one does not take the time to listen to the client and others, and get a good sense of what’s going on.
The next thing that you want to see is that the lawyer actually pulls the book off the shelf or looks at the computer, and reads the words of the statute that you are accused of having violated. It is amazing how many times I and other lawyers think we know what the statute says, because we’ve read it a hundred times, but we haven’t read it in the last three months, and there is a word or two that we’ve got confused. You go back to the book each and every time you look at it, and find a wealth of information that you can apply that in this particular case to the client’s advantage.
I would look to those kinds of things to give me the confidence that the particular lawyer was the right choice, either for myself or for somebody that I truly cared about, such as a family member or a close friend. Those are the types of things I would be looking for.
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