Q: What do I do if I am accused of a crime?
A: It is always best to consult a criminal defense lawyer as early as possible if you suspect you will be charged with a crime or even questioned by authorities regarding criminal activity. Your attorney will fight for your legal and constitutional rights and monitor the proceedings for fairness. Retaining an attorney early in the process might result in less serious formal charges.
Q: What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A: The traditional definition of a felony is a crime that is punishable by a year or more in jail. A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment up to 12 months in jail.
Q: What is arraignment?
A: Arraignment is a proceeding during which an accused is formally appraised of the charges against him or her
Q: If I'm arrested what do I do?
A: If the police arrest you, immediately ask to call an attorney. You have a Constitutional right to remain silent and a Constitutional right to an attorney. Remember anything you say to the authorities can and will be used against you.
Q: What is a grand jury?
A: The grand jury is a jury comprised of citizens that are chosen to hear evidence and decide whether the Government has sufficient evidence to indict a suspect and continue the criminal proceedings against the accused. The grand jury does not make a decision about the guilt or the innocence of the accused.
Q: What is the role of the prosecutor?
A: The prosecutor is the attorney who represents the federal, state or local government in a case against a criminal defendant. The title of the prosecutor varies by jurisdiction, but some common titles include district attorney, solicitor-general, United States Attorney, and State’s Attorney. The prosecutor has the public duty to punish those committing crimes, balanced with the duty to fairly try such individuals.
Q: How are children and youth prosecuted?
A: Generally, a minor is prosecuted for criminal conduct in a separate juvenile court system. However, certain offenses begin in the adult system and may be transferred down to the juvenile system. Likewise, certain situations allow for cases may be transferred to the adult system.
Q: What is the difference between probation and parole?
A: Probation is a type of criminal sentence that allows a person to stay in the community rather than serve time in prison, as long as he or she complies with certain conditions, such as regularly reporting to a probation officer, refraining from alcohol and drugs and not committing further crimes. Parole is the supervised release of a prisoner from incarceration into the community before the end of his or her sentence. Conditions of parole are similar to those of probation. Strangely, one might be released from prison on parole and moved to a probation once the prison portion of the sentence has ended. For example, one is sentenced to serve 5 years in prison to be followed by 5 years on probation. The person is released from prison after 3 years, so the first 2 years will be on parole and then it will move to probation.
Q: What is restitution in the criminal context?
A: Depending on the applicable federal or state laws, part of a criminal sentence may include the payment of restitution to the victim or victims for their related losses. Restitution may include compensation for property damage or loss, medical and rehabilitation expenses.