Imagine this. You receive a call from the local jail. It is a close friend or loved one. They tell you, “I’ve been arrested for a felony offense.” Without question, your mind will begin to swirl and you may become overwhelmed by fear and confusion. The moment you hear those words, your mind needs to focus on taking immediate action. Any felony offense and the repercussions of such a conviction are very serious. Decisive, immediate action must be undertaken. In this, the first in a series of articles explaining criminal litigation, let me provide you with information that will help you, and the accused protect important Constitutional rights.
1. KEEP QUIET The accused should say nothing to the arresting agency and the corrections staff regarding the charges against them. Every person accused of any criminal offense should affirmatively state that they wish to remain silent. Providing booking information, such as name, date of birth, etc., may be necessarily shared with the booking officer. Do not discuss the charges with anyone until you have the opportunity to speak to an experienced criminal law attorney.
2. DEMAND A LAWYER Your telephone conversations are likely recorded and could be used in court. At this point in the process, it is difficult to determine what is relevant and what is not. Be safe, protect your rights, and if given your Miranda rights, affirmatively invoke your right to remain silent by saying, “I will not answer any questions until I have consulted with a lawyer.”
3. HOW DO I GET OUT OF JAIL On the outside, attempt to determine from corrections staff what the charge is, and the amount of bond/bail that needs to be posted to secure the accused’s release. With a felony charge, it is likely that a very high bond may be set before the accused appears before a judge or magistrate.
4. RETAIN COUNSEL Consult and retain an experienced criminal litigator as soon as possible; it should be the first call made in most situations. Many times quick reaction to charges may allow for important evidence to be secured and important interviews to be undertaken. Retaining experienced counsel can help the accused obtain reasonable bond conditions at their arraignment. Arraignment is a hearing in open court to set bond, request court appointed counsel and to determine whether a preliminary examination, a probable cause hearing, will be scheduled or waived.
5. WHAT IS A “PRELIM” Within 14 days, unless waived by the accused, the Government must establish probable cause that a crime was committed and probable cause to believe the accused committed the offense. Although it has some of the appearances of a trial, it is not the same, although the rules of evidence in most respects apply. The sooner that the accused retains counsel, the sooner preparation for this important hearing can begin.
These are the beginning stages of a felony prosecution. When the full force and weight of the Government is brought to bear, decisive, experienced representation is essential. Without question, when you or a loved one is arrested for a felony offense, remain silent and contact our offices immediately. As a former prosecutor, Joseph Barberi knows the criminal justice system and all of the players in the surrounding regions. With over 75 years of combined criminal law experience, we stand ready to aggressively defend our clients. We encourage everyone, when faced with such a serious decision, to call our offices. We can help.