1.What do I do if I am arrested?
1.1 What is the very first thing I should do if I am arrested?
The first move should be obvious... Stop, think, and call a good lawyer as soon as possible. When you are arrested...the State of Indiana is accusing you committing a crime...something which is punishable...something that might put your liberty at stake and take you away from your family, friends and loved ones. Treat the matter seriously. This is not the time to joke around or play know-it-all.
1.2 Should I talk to the police?
No. Generally, most law enforcement personnel are some of the nicest people you might ever want to meet. However, one of the main functions of their job is to elicit information from you. They may befriend you. They may lie to you. They might trick you. They might even threaten you. What you need to know is that, generally, are not eliciting information for your benefit. Law enforcement personnel work for the State of Indiana and that officer is probably looking for information that will help their case AGAINST you. Everything you do and every word you say may be used against you. That's why I usually tell most people to "say nothing", "answer no questions", "give no consents" and to "not participate in any investigative procedures until I arrive."
2. What will happen at my initial hearing?
2.1 What happens at my initial hearing?
Usually the prosecutor has already filed formal charges before the initial hearing. However, if he/she hasn't, they are generally required to file formal charges before this hearing. The court will look at what the defendant is charged with and will explain the charges against the defendant and the rights that the defendant has in the case. Some of the things the court will explain are:
1. The maximum possible sentence and any mandatory minimum required by law.
2. Your right to a trial
3. Your right to a trial by jury
4. Your right to remain silent
5. Your right to have the presence of an attorney.
6. Your right to appointed counsel if you are indigent.
The Court will then inquire as to the Defendant's plea.
The Court will usually then set a bench trial or jury trial date and an omnibus date that controls the date for filing of motions.
The last thing the Court will usually do is set the amount and terms of the defendant's bail, if that hasn't been done already.
3. What are my Bail options?
3.1 What are my bail options?
The Court has quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to setting bail. Many counties have guidelines they use when setting the amount of bail. These guideline usually take into consideration the severity of the charge and the risk of flight from prosecution. If the appearance of the Defendant is reasonably assured, it is possible to be released on personal recognizance. However, most people will have to post a 10% cash deposit bond, a surety bond or a bond secured by real estate.
Of course, the Court can impose restrictions or requirements on the defendant when setting bail.
It is interesting to note that Article 1 Section 17 of the Indiana Constitution gives each person the right to bail unless the offense involves murder or treason. However, the Court often sets the amount of bail so high that it actually denies a person their freedom while awaiting trial!
4. After the Initial hearing, what happens next?
4.1 After the initial hearing, what happens next?
This is the time where your attorney will prepare your case toward your ultimate goals. Generally, that means preparing your case for trial. A good attorney will identify the possible legal issues in your case and do the necessary research on those issues. Motions will probably be filed with the Court on your behalf. Additionally, your lawyer will investigate your case by talking with potential witnesses and looking at the possible evidence in your case.
Discovery will usually be exchanged with the prosecutor along with proposed witness and exhibit lists. The defense attorney and the prosecutor will talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their cases and the possibilities of settling the case.
5. Going to Trial?
5.1 Going to trial?
Most criminal cases do not go to trial. Some are plea-bargained out to lesser charges or a lesser sentence and some cases are dropped completely. However, a good defense lawyer will always prepare each case for trial.
Once at trial, the case will proceed as follows: The prosecutor will begin with an opening statement. The defense will follow with their opening statement. The prosecutor will then proceed with their case by calling witnesses to testify. Witnesses will be placed under oath and are questioned by the prosecutor attorney who called the witness. The defense attorney will have an option to cross-examine the prosecutor's witnesses if they so desire. Exhibits may also be presented as evidence in the case. At the finish of the prosecutor's case, the defense will have the opportunity to put on their case. Since the prosecutor has the burden of proving each element of their case beyond a reasonable doubt, sometimes it is not necessary for the defense to present their case or call certain witnesses.
6.What is the role of the Prosecutor?
6.1 What is the role of the prosecutor?
The prosecutor represents the State of Indiana against the Defendant. The prosecutor has an ethical duty to refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause. Additionally, the prosecutor may not discourage defense witnesses from testifying and the prosecutor will be held to any agreements they make with the defendant or any witnesses.
Furthermore, the prosecutor has the duty to see that the Defendant is accorded procedural justice and that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence. The prosecutor must make timely disclosure of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense. This means that the prosecutor must not suppress or omit material evidence and must takes steps to preserve useful evidence for the Defendant.
7. What is the role of the Defense Attorney?
7.1 What is the role of the defense attorney?
The defense attorney must diligently and zealously represent the client's best interests at trial. Although the defense attorney must abide by the client's objectives, the defense attorney is responsible for the technical and tactical issues at the trial. One of the defense attorney's main duties is to help ensure that the Defendant gets a fair trial. The defense attorney does this by functioning as a watchdog on behalf of his client by helping educate the judge as to potential inadmissible evidence and other legal issues and by making sure that the prosecutor doesn't overstep their bounds when presenting their case or objecting to the client's defense.
Interestingly enough...few people realize that, while most everything the Defendant tells his attorney is protected by the attorney-client confidentiality privilege, the defense attorney may not knowingly offer false information into evidence.
8. What is the role of the Judge?
8.1 What is the role of the judge?
The judge is a public officer who is charged with the control of the legal proceedings in the court. The judge will determine whether certain evidence is admissible or not. Furthermore, the judge will rule on preliminary matters and discovery issues that the parties have. Before a jury decides a case, the judge will instruct the jury as to how the law guides them in the particular case.
9. What is the role of the Jury?
9.1 What is the role of the jury?
Jurors take an oath to honestly, justly and impartially hear a case. Jurors have a duty to keep an open mind and must not form or express an opinion until they have heard all the evidence, the arguments of counsel, and the final instruction as to the law from the Court.
Jurors are the exclusive judges of the evidence, the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given to the testimony. In weighing the testimony to determine what or who is to be believed, the jury should use their own knowledge, experience and common sense to guide them.
10. What is the Sentencing Hearing?
10.1 What is the Sentencing Hearing?
After a guilty plea or verdict, a sentencing hearing is generally held so the judge can hear evidence as to what the defendant's sentence should be. In felony cases, a pre-sentence report must be prepared and the defendant must receive a copy of the contents of the report before the hearing.
Generally, the judge must sentence the defendant to the presumptive sentence set by statute unless there are mitigating or aggravating circumstances in the case.
Generally, a sentence may run consecutively (one after the other) if all the crimes arose out of 1 transaction and the offenses aren't identical.
Generally, a sentence should run concurrently (at the same time) if there were no aggravating circumstances in the case. However, a consecutive sentence is required is the defendant was still on probation, parole or imprisoned for another crime.
11. What is the goal of Criminal Sanctions?
11.1 What is the goal of criminal sanctions?
Article 1 Section 18 of the Indiana Constitution says the aim of criminal sanctions is to reform the criminal offender.
12. What about an Appeal?
12.1 What about an Appeal?
Article 7 Section 6 of the Indiana Constitution says that all defendants have the right to one appeal of their criminal conviction.
Generally, the conviction will be sustained (upheld) if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
13. What is Probation?
13.1 What is probation?
Probation is a sentence imposed for the commission of a crime where...instead of being incarcerated...the convicted criminal offender is released into the community under the supervision of a probation officer under certain terms and conditions.
Probation may be revoked if a defendant violates the terms and conditions of their probation. The petition to revoke requires that the State prove that the conditions were violated by a preponderance of the evidence at a hearing before a judge. This is a much lesser standard than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard that the State had at trial. Probation violations are very common and the potential consequence is very serious. If probation is revoked, it is possible for the defendant to be sentenced to the original sentence!e.
14. I got a Traffic ticket - Should I fight it?
14.1 I got a traffic ticket - Should I fight it?
If you receive a traffic citation, you usually have the option of either paying the fine by mailing in the designated fee or appearing in traffic court to contest the ticket. Whether you should fight the ticket depends on many things, including whether the potential penalty is serious and whether you have a valid defense to the ticket. Look at the facts of your case objectively. Do you have valid reason for violating a traffic law or just an excuse?
There are several ways a traffic ticket can be dismissed. Some of the more common reasons for dismissal include: State's failure to make a prima facie case; State isn't ready to present its case at the time of your court appearance; Lack of jurisdiction; and Mistaken identification. Contact your attorney regarding the traffic matter and he/she should be able to help you decide whether you should fight it.
15. Do I need Professional Help?
15.1 Do I need Professional Help?
The biggest mistake one can make is to attempt to go thru the criminal process unrepresented. The prosecutor may seem like the nicest guy in the world. However, the prosecutor does not have your interest at heart. The prosecutor represents the State of Indiana and will try to get the best results for the State. The most important thing you can do is to secure counsel as early on in the process as possible.