One of the most critical principles outlined in the United States Constitution is the idea that every person has certain rights that must be upheld and protected, even when that person is accused of or suspected of committing a crime. These protections benefit everyone, guilty and innocent alike, and one of the first things an experienced criminal defense attorney will do in preparing your case is determine whether any of your rights were violated in the course of the investigation conducted by law enforcement that led to your being charged with a crime. If any grounds exist on which to claim that your constitutional rights were violated, your attorney can rectify this by filing a pretrial suppression motion to exclude from consideration any evidence that law enforcement obtained by means of that violation.
When a person is arrested and charged with a crime, they are in most cases entitled to bail. Bail is not supposed to be punitive, rather it is designed to help insure that the person charged attends all court appearances and follows all conditions of release set by the court. Standard conditions may include travel restrictions to the state, no additional arrests, to report any contact with law enforcement (including motor vehicle stops), surrender of all weapons, regular reporting to pretrial services, and an order against contacting the alleged victim, if applicable.
Thanks to television and movies, most people are aware that prosecutors often make deals or agreements with individuals under investigation, wherein the person being investigated is granted immunity from prosecution or a reduction of charges in exchange for providing information to the government. Of course, the details of these negotiations are dramatized for the sake of the narrative; the reality of the situation is far more complex, particularly in white-collar criminal investigations. Almost any immunity or plea arrangement begins with a proffer agreement.
The stages of a criminal case as it proceeds through the legal system can be confusing for individuals who find themselves on the wrong end of legal charges for the first time. Though popular media has no shortage of stories set within the criminal justice system, these fictional depictions often leave out important details. When a substantial portion of your personal and professional future hangs in the balance, it's critical to have a complete and accurate understanding of the steps through which your criminal case will proceed.
Sometimes you may hear about "due process" in connection with your rights in the criminal justice system. But what exactly does that mean, and what are its sources of authority? In this and some of our future posts we will address due process generally as well as its core opponents.
Many crime drama television programs feature scenes of contentious negotiations between prosecutors and defense attorneys as the latter attempt to find a way to reduce the charges or the possible punishment against their clients, commonly known as plea bargaining. But how does this concept work in actual practice when one is faced with federal charges?