Michigan Criminal Defense – FAQs
“Do I need a lawyer?”
If you have to ask this question, the answer is “yes.” A criminal conviction can be life changing. It can have a dramatic effect on employability, financial stability, family, custody, reputation, licensing and much more. The severity of your circumstances can be determined only with the aid of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, and only after he or she is familiar with the facts of your case and learns about who you are.
If you’ve never been involved with the criminal justice system before, being charged with a crime can be a terrifying experience. Before you have a chance to even understand what’s happening, you can be forced to make critical decisions in a situation that you may know nothing about. And making the wrong decision can have implications for the rest of your life. A top Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer can help guide you through the complexities of a criminal case and help ensure that your rights are fully protected.
“What if I am innocent of the charges brought against me?”
The reality is, if you have been charged with a crime, you are assumed to be guilty by the government. The prosecutor, the public, probably the judge, and, at the outset, the jury, will believe you are guilty even if you’ve done nothing wrong. We like to think that truth and justice prevail and in the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” but it is not always so. As seen on the news at least weekly, people are found guilty of crimes they did not commit and it can take decades before they are vindicated. These are people who were truly innocent yet they were convicted because a jury was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt in their guilt. This is a tragedy that happens far too often and usually is the result of inadequate, underfunded or inexperienced legal counsel.
The only way to ensure that your rights are defended and that you have someone fighting for you is to retain a qualified, experienced and zealous criminal defense lawyer. Make no mistake: The system is set up to convict people, not to achieve justice or discover the truth. Prosecutors and police are not trying to find the truth; they are trying to secure convictions and are often blind to an injustice occurring right before their eyes. You need a skilled, fearless defense lawyer to fight for you because the prosecution is going to have plenty of experience and they are going to be fighting for a conviction.
“Do I need a lawyer if my case is still under investigation and no charges have been filed against me?”
When your case is in a pre-charge state, you need a lawyer more than ever. Although very few experienced criminal attorneys know how to handle a criminal case on a pre-charge basis, having the right lawyer on the front lines for you can make the difference between charges being filed and the prosecutor denying a warrant for your arrest. It is important to note that police and prosecutors do not always give people the benefit of doubt before they file charges and the hard work a criminal defense lawyer can do prior to charges being issued can be critical to the charging decision. Police frequently make mistakes and they are not always thorough. Police detectives sometimes are less than ethical in a criminal investigation. Don’t assume that the police will fairly decide whether you should be charged.
Prosecutors and police regularly fail to preserve evidence favorable to the defendant during the investigation stage, an experienced criminal defense attorney can take measures to help ensure the preservation of favorable evidence. Any evidence in your favor needs to be investigated and preserved by your lawyer as early as possible. In many cases he is able to bring evidence to the attention of the police and prosecutors before charges are filed—and persuade them not to file charges against you. It is often easier to convince prosecutors not to file charges in the first place than to persuade them to dismiss charges once filed.
“What can my lawyer do if the charges have already been filed?”
If charges have been filed, a lawyer may be able to prevent you from being arrested on a warrant. If you are arrested, a good attorney will be able to maximize your chances of getting a personal bond or a personal recognizance bond. The attorney will evaluate the evidence and determine if the government can prove its case against you. Sometimes prosecutors are mistaken about the strength of their evidence and can be persuaded to abandon their case after hearing both sides of the story. Other times, prosecutors can be persuaded to dismiss charges because of changes in the evidence, constitutional violations or misconduct by law enforcement. A good defense lawyer will look for police mistakes or illegal tactics that can be the basis for suppression of evidence or dismissal of the charges against you.
If he can’t obtain a dismissal of charges, he will help you evaluate whether it is in your best interest to go to trial or to obtain a negotiated plea bargain, a sentence agreement or a Cobb’s evaluation. Only a skilled criminal defense lawyer can credibly evaluate your chances for success at trial. Such advice can only be given after a thorough investigation of the case, usually well beyond what the police have done.
“What if I just want to plead guilty?”
If you wish to plead guilty, an experienced defense lawyer can help ensure that you are treated fairly and reasonably. The penalties for many offenses are unexpectedly harsh. It is a misconception to think that that the government is inclined to graciously accept your plea and agree to leniency. If you just plead guilty without an attorney who is fighting to protect you, you can expect to get a sentence that will be longer, more difficult and more expensive than necessary. You do not have to just submit yourself to the system. Importantly, there are often consequences of a guilty finding beyond the court’s sentence, such as loss of driver’s license, loss of student loan eligibility, and others, that the court and prosecutor will not tell you about.
With an attorney who is a specialist in criminal cases, you may be able to take responsibility for the offense without suffering the ramifications of a guilty finding or a conviction being entered on your record.
In short, you should never simply count on the mercy of the court or prosecutor. You will seldom find it. If you intend to admit to an offense, you need a lawyer who will take the time to learn who you are, where you come from, and where you wish to go—a lawyer who can obtain the very best disposition for you. If you think about it, if your lawyer is able to convince the judge to reduce your fines, costs and any restitution, he or she may be able pay for themselves in a roundabout way.
“Can I afford to hire a criminal attorney?”
A better question would be, “can I afford not to hire an attorney?” The answer is simple, if you can put together the resources to hire an attorney, you will be in far better condition than if you try and go it alone. An experienced Michigan criminal defense is almost certainly going to be able to help you. If you have not yet been charged but you are a suspect in an offense, a criminal defense lawyers may be able to intervene and either prevent a warrant issuing for your arrest or he or she may be able to negotiate with the police and/or prosecutor and limit the charges that may be pressed against you. If you’ve already been charged, you have to understand the potential implications of a criminal conviction. Your financial stability, liberty, family, custody, employability, and reputation may be at stake. Spending the money on a good lawyer today may result in the preservation of a job, your earing ability, avoidance of huge fines, costs and restitution, and the ability to sue for malicious prosecution in the event of a frivolous or unjustified prosecution. The greater costs both financially and personally will undoubtedly result from not hiring the best criminal defense lawyer available.
“While interviewing Criminal Defense Attorneys one stated he or she could “guarantee” a result if I hired him or her. Should I hire such a lawyer?”
No one can guarantee a future event especially in a criminal defense case. In fact guaranteeing results is against the Michigan State Bar ethical rules. The outcome of a criminal case is a future event like any other. An experienced criminal trial attorney can usually give opinions as to the possible outcome, but these are no more than professional opinions. Be careful not to mistake a criminal defense attorney’s opinion for a guarantee. If the criminal defense attorney is truly giving you a guarantee contingent upon hiring the lawyer, ask the attorney to give you the guarantee in writing. As you will see, the lawyer will refuse to provide you anything in writing regarding guarantees, promises or relationships with judges or prosecutors they claim will be beneficial to your case. A lawyer who is willing to give a guarantee is dishonest and is so desperate for work he or she is willing to lie to you for the purpose of manipulating you in to hiring him or her. Find a different lawyer.
“How does someone get bailed out? Do I get the bail money returned when the case is over?”
Bail is financial assurance that a defendant will return to court after being released from custody. There are three ways to post bail. First, “cash” bail may be posted with the court or law enforcement agency to cover the entire amount of the bail. At the end of the case, if bail is exonerated, the person posting the bond will receive a check for the entire amount posted. If the bond is posted in the defendant’s name, the court will take out of the balance any costs, fees, fines and restitution due. Never put the bail in the defendant’s name when it can be avoided.
Second, a “bond” through a bail company, bondsman or surety may be posted. A defendant pays about 10% of the entire amount to a bail company, which puts up the entire bail amount through a bond. When the case is concluded, the 10% is not returned to the defendant because this is the fee he paid to the bail company to post bail on his behalf (like an insurance premium).
Third, the court may set a 10% bond. Under these circumstances, 10% of the amount of the bond may be posted and the defendant, or whoever pays the bond, will have to promise to pay the other 90% if the defendant fails to appear in court or violates a bond condition. When the case is concluded, the court will keep 10% of the amount posted as a fee.
“The person that called the police does not want to prosecute, does that mean that no charges will be filed and that I will be released from custody?”
Put simply…no. There are many reasons why the alleged victim or reporting party may have a change of heart. It may be that the report of crime (violence, theft, or other violation) may have been false or inaccurate. It may also be that the person is scared to proceed with a prosecution or may be afraid to lose a source of financial support. The police and the prosecutor’s office are aware of all the reasons, and do not just “drop charges” especially in domestic violence cases or other matters. In almost all of these cases, the prosecution assumes the worst and refused to dismiss the charges.
“Does your criminal law firm need the entire legal fee immediately?”
In most cases a payment plan can be worked out with our law firm. Our criminal defense firm accepts credit cards, cash and checks and has written retainer agreements. Usually a substantial portion of the fee must be paid up front and the balance can be worked out under a schedule for payments.
“My divorce attorney says he can handle my case. Do I need an attorney who practices exclusively criminal cases?”
If you had a heart problem, would you want to be treated by a general practice doctor or a heart specialist? The same principle applies to lawyers. If a criminal lawyer is getting divorced, he or she hires a divorce lawyer. If a real estate attorney gets charged with a DUI, he or she hires a Michigan criminal defense lawyer. The fact is that law is complex and a general practice lawyer who is practicing multiple areas of the law just cannot be an expert at all of them. If you need a divorce, hire a lawyer that exclusively handles divorce. If you are charged with a crime or accused of committing a criminal offense, you should seek out a lawyer that exclusively practices criminal defense. Many people do not realize that the Michigan Court Rules that govern civil cases are entirely different than the rules governing criminal matters. Failure to know the intricacies of even on of the many rules can result in an error that affects the rest of your life.
“What if I feel that the police violated my constitutional rights?”
A criminal defense attorney seeks to exclude evidence obtained as a result of police misconduct. At times, police misconduct occurs in searches that take place during ordinary traffic stops or in a suspect’s home. Additionally, if law enforcement is too aggressive in trying to obtain an incriminating statement from a suspect, it may violate the suspect’s Miranda rights. Litigation in the criminal court allows a defense lawyer to protect his client’s rights by submitting motions to the judge seeking to exclude the recovered evidence or received statements from trial. Often a successful motion to suppress evidence cripples the prosecutor’s case, causing the case to either be dismissed or substantially reduced in plea negotiations.
If the defendant is not a U.S. citizen, how will the immigration status be affected by an arrest?
Criminal convictions may cause direct and grave consequences to someone’s immigration status, often leading to deportation proceedings. The INS guidelines are often very complex and our criminal defense attorneys frequently confer with immigration law specialists to properly advise clients. Before going to court, our criminal lawyers discuss with clients their immigration status. Often our criminal law attorneys seek charges that are not considered by the INS as moral turpitude offenses (which are subject to deportation), and to convert any possible custody time to community service work.
In Michigan, law enforcement is responsible for running the jails and regularly verifies immigration status upon receiving an inmate. As a result, as soon as an inmate is in custody (even if charges are later dismissed), an “immigration hold” may be placed subjecting him or her to deportation proceedings. The inmate may be deported from the United States after the INS picks the inmate up from the sheriff or police department’s custody. The saddest part is that the inmate may be innocent of all charges and still be deported because his/her immigration status is questioned.
“State v. Federal Court: What is the difference in criminal defense issues?”
Federal court cases are typically investigated by federal agencies, including the FBI, DEA, Customs, Treasury, and other federal agencies. Sometimes state and local agencies also file charges in federal court if the offenses involve major quantity of drugs, weapons or other contraband. The federal government has more resources to prosecute cases, including special units to prosecute drugs, fraud, and violent crimes. While the state and local government also has special units, they have fewer prosecutors with larger caseloads. Also, local law enforcement does not have nearly as many resources to complete investigations with as much thoroughness as federal law enforcement. For the most part, it is definitely in a criminal defendant’s interest to be prosecuted in state, rather than federal court. The State of Michigan sentencing guidelines usually require a shorter sentence than the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Regularly, states courts have far more alternative sentencing options than federal courts.
“How can I clear up an arrest warrant?”
Clearing up an arrest or bench warrant can be done one way: appearing in front of the court that issued the warrant. As long as the warrant is in the system, the person can be arrested for it in any state, in any contact with the police or government agency, and even coming into the United States at the airport or at an international boarder crossing. Immediate action to clear up the warrant is the best way to approach this legal problem. Voluntarily coming into the court with a well known, retained lawyer may result in the person being released on a low or personal bond. If the person is actually arrested on the warrant, bond may be very high or even denied.
“Why should I hire LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.?”
At LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., our legal team is comprised of aggressive, passionate and fearless defense attorneys. We are well versed in all criminal law and defense matters, and very experienced working within the Michigan criminal justice system. Our criminal defense attorneys have approximately 40 years of collective courtroom experience and we are fully prepared to undertake your case. When we work with our clients, we do everything possible to make sure that they receive the attention, resources, and dedicated legal counsel that they deserve. We will find a way to help you and, most importantly, we are not afraid to win!
“What types of cases does your law firm handle?”
The Criminal Defense Attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have successfully handled all misdemeanor and felony cases involving: DUI-OWI (Drunk Driving), Sex Crimes, White Collar Crimes, Drug Crimes, Violent Crimes, Domestic Violence/Assault, Federal Crimes, Juvenile Crimes, Theft Crimes, Weapons Charges, Driving Charges, Fraud, Conspiracy, Internet Crimes, Probation Violation (VOP), Driver License Restoration, Expungement, Appeals (Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court), Arrest Warrant Arraignment, Shoplifting, Ordinance Violations, Traffic Tickets, Child Abuse, Personal Protection Orders (PPO), Burglary, Robbery, and many more
If you would like to speak to an experienced, passionate and zealous Michigan Criminal Defense Specialist today, please call us at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will promptly contact you.