HOW DOES A PRIOR ARREST OR CONVICTION IMPACT A CRIMINAL CASE?
Generally, a prior arrest is not admissible as evidence. In other words, if they have a jury trial, the state or the prosecutor is not allowed to inform a jury or bring evidence of the prior arrest or conviction to the jury. The jury is to evaluate the case based on its own merits. We do not want to give them any prejudice against the defendant based on something else that happened. However, if the person is convicted either by a guilty, a no contest plea, or convicted after a verdict at trial, then the judge will impose sentencing. The judge will consider any prior record that the defendant has, and that can make the sentence worse in many ways.
First, there are some statutes that require a judge to impose different terms, and not give the person probation if they are a repeat offender. Even if there is no such statute, the judge may feel that they have had the chance, and this time the punishment would be more severe to get the message across to them this time around.
Are There Any Alternative Punishments Available to Criminal Offenders?
Yes, absolutely, there are alternative punishments available. In Hawaii, if it is a drug offense, or even if a property crime, like theft, the person was motivated by a drug problem, and then they take money for drugs, they can go to drug court, instead of the normal court system. That allows them to avoid having any criminal conviction. Many cases can be resolved with a fine instead of jail, even if suspended. This means the judgement does not have to be paid unless they violate conditions of their probation, or community service if the person does not have money to pay, or if the judge thinks it would be appropriate to have them serve the community in some way. They can receive seventy-two hours of community service.
That is especially common in misdemeanor cases, and driving cases, such as driving under the influence, but it also can be imposed in major felony cases. It is possible for a person to get a deferred acceptance of their plea, which means that they are placed on probation, and at the end of probation, if they have not committed any further offenses, and they cooperated with their probation officer, their case can be dismissed without a conviction ever being entered.
What Qualities Should I Look for When Retaining a Criminal Defense Attorney?
Experience is very important in criminal defense. I have been handling, defending, and trying criminal cases for over thirty years with well over a hundred trials under my belt. There is nothing like experience to prepare one for the battles in a courtroom. One should make sure that the attorney they retain has significant portions of their practice in the criminal arena, because it is different from other areas of law. Special knowledge is required, and one needs to stay up-to-date in order to handle criminal cases.
What Sets Your Firm Apart in Handling Criminal Cases?
I pull out all the stocks when I represent a criminal defendant in any criminal case. I make sure I do a very thorough investigation, and leave no stone unturned. I always visit the scene of the alleged incident, and talk to all the witnesses myself. I have had success by being very creative in the defenses that I put forth in criminal cases, including constitutional defenses. I have won a great many cases, including a number of cases that have resulted in published appellate decisions based on the government, and the police violation of my clients’ fourth amendment rights to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. In that kind of case, I can get the evidence suppressed and the case goes away.
I have a good rapport with juries because of my decades of experience working with juries, and I feel that I have a good ability to personalize my client to a jury or a judge. I believe that personalizes my client, so there is less chance of prejudice, and more chance of understanding, and seeing the case from my client’s point of view. Finally, it is important to work with the prosecuting attorneys most of whom I know personally. I am on good terms with most of them. I have worked over the years with them, and that is important to see what can be done in these cases where there is not a very good defense equivalent to minimized damages.
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