West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman PLLC is an experienced criminal defense law firm located in Tucson, Arizona. Our knowledgeable attorneys have over 180 years of combined education, knowledge, and experience in criminal law.
Myth #5: Only guilty people need a lawyer
If you are facing criminal charges, contact the law office of West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman PLLC online or call us at 520-790-7337 for a free consultation. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not provide legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship.
Facing criminal charges and a long jail sentence can be life changing and terrifying. Our team will be there with you every step of the way, to ensure that you are represented fairly and that all of your rights are protected.
While there are few one-size-fits all questions when it comes to criminal defense, below are some common myths and facts about hiring a criminal defense attorney. In a nutshell, if you are charged with a crime, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Working with experienced attorneys can make a vast difference in the outcome of your case.
If you have further questions, contact our experienced attorneys today to discuss the particulars of your case.
Common Myths about Criminal Defense Attorneys
Representing myself in court will get me the result I want
Fact: Although you have a constitutional right to represent yourself, this is not always the best solution. Hiring a criminal defense attorney to represent you will ensure that your rights are protected. Our legal team keeps abreast of all the latest developments in Arizona. We know when and where to challenge the police, the prosecutor, and even the judge when they make a mistake.
If you represent yourself, you will be at a disadvantage. You will not know the procedures or the players. This may result in things being on the record that should not be there. Appealing criminal convictions can take months. It’s better to put the right team together at the beginning in order to maximize your chances of success.
If I am charged with a crime, I will go to jail
Fact: not every crime carries a jail sentence. Misdemeanors often do not carry a possibility of jail time at all. Even if you are charged with a felony, you may only receive probation, depending on the severity of the crime and your background.
You should also know that being charged with a crime is the first step of what can be a long road before conviction and sentencing. It may be several months after you have been charged with a crime before your trial date.
A lot can happen in that time - scientific evidence can be processed that may exonerate you. Additional witnesses or even suspects may appear and change the game. At the trial, the prosecution may not have the evidence necessary to convict you. Being arrested and charged with a crime is not a guilty verdict. Having experienced attorneys fighting for you each step of the way will help this process.
Defense attorneys just want their clients to take plea deals
Fact: This is not the case. We love to be aggressive, poking holes in police testimony and in the state’s case in order to find our clients not guilty on all charges.
However, there is nothing wrong with negotiating a plea bargain with the state. For example, pleading guilty could result in being charged with a lesser crime, having some charges dropped, or receiving a reduced or suspended jail sentence. Sometimes, they are the right answer, but this is not always the case.
Our criminal defense team will help weigh the evidence against you to know how strong of a case the prosecution can make. We will present the pros and cons of every option available to you, so you can make the best choice for you and your family.
You have to answer questions from the police
Fact: You do not have to answer any questions. You have the right to remain silent, even if you are in police custody and under arrest. Speaking with the police and answering their questions may result in you inadvertently admitting to committing a crime. Even if you are careful, you may say something that can damage your credibility.
Instead, you should remain silent and answer questions only with your attorney present.
Only guilty people need a lawyer
Fact: Crime TV shows make us think that only guilty people need lawyers. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Our criminal justice system has many flaws and we live in a country where many innocent people spend time in jail.
Speaking with the police or prosecution without an attorney present can lead to inadvertent admissions or inconsistencies that diminish your credibility. Instead of trying to show that you are honest and letting the chips fall where they may, you should call an attorney who specializes in criminal law as soon as you are charged with a crime. This can save you a significant amount of hassle down the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have been arrested, charged with a crime, or are under investigation you need to know your rights and act to protect them immediately. Perhaps more than any other area of law, experience is crucial for an attorney representing individuals in criminal defense cases because the consequences can have a lasting impact on your life, your freedom and your future. Criminal cases can be complicated, move fast and have critical time limits. The longer your attorney has before trial, the better and stronger your defense can be.
Any person who is facing a criminal charge, no matter how minor, will benefit from consulting a experienced criminal defense lawyer to help with the negotiation of a plea bargain or to prepare a case for trial. Our Arizona criminal defense attorneys regularly provide legal advice and representation for clients in Tucson.
Attorneys at our law firm are here to represent your interests and are dedicated to defending your rights. Contact us for more information about Arizona criminal law, Arizona criminal courts, the criminal process, or to discuss your criminal charges with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Many people are nervous when confronted with a police officer who is asking questions. The bottom line is that you do NOT have to answer questions of a police officer even if you are a suspect. You can simply tell the police officer that you are choosing to remain silent.
If you are in custody, or if you are not free to leave the location where a police officer has detained you, AND the police officer is asking you questions, they must warn you of your Miranda rights. These rights include the right to remain silent and to get the help of an attorney before answering questions.
If you are taken into custody, the Court must conduct a hearing within 24 hours of your arrest to set your release conditions. You could be held on a bond, you could be released on your own recognizance or you could be released to the third party custody of an agency. Then, the prosecutor has a time limit to issue formal charges against you. The charges you are “booked in on” may not be the charges you end up with. Usually, the prosecutor has ten days if you are in custody or 20 days if you are out of custody to review the case with a police officer and take the case to a grand jury for an indictment. Once the grand jury issues formal charges then other court dates will be established as well as the time frame for a speedy trial.
Normally, the prosecutor has 150 days from the time of your initial appearance to bring your case to trial. Your attorney can “waive time” meaning that a continuance may be necessary to accomplish investigation and trial preparation. Sometimes a speedy trial is in your best interests and sometimes it is not.You need to make this decision with the help of your lawyer.
At your initial appearance, the Court will set release conditions. If you were arrested and taken to jail, the Court will review factors about you, your criminal history if any, your community ties, and the seriousness of the charges. The Court, then, either sets a bond amount that will have to be posted, release you to an agency that will supervise you, or release you on your own recognizance. If your bond is high, your attorney can file a motion to lower it or to have you released depending on the circumstances of your case.
The prosecutor must present a criminal case involving felony charges to a court or to a grand jury to establish that there is probable cause that you committed the crime. This is a fairly low burden of proof and is only used to establish the issuing of an indictment. The prosecutor does not need to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt at this stage of the process. A preliminary hearing is conducted by a judge, witnesses are sworn in and called to testify, and the defense can put on evidence if they so choose. Most cases, however, proceed by way of grand jury. This is a secret proceeding during which the prosecutor presents the “evidence” through the case detective to a group of jurors, who then decide if there is probable cause to issue criminal charges. The defendant and the defense attorney are typically not present at a grand jury hearing, but are provided a transcript of that hearing at a later date.
You have the right to remain silent about your charges and the underlying circumstances. You are presumed innocent until the prosecution proves the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the right to the assistance of an attorney to help you. You have the right to present evidence if you want and to cross examine the prosecution's witnesses. You have due process rights which means that you have the right to be present at hearings and challenge all aspects of the case against you. You also have the right to an appeal if you are found guilty of a crime.
A trial is a proceeding which determines whether you are guilty of certain crimes or not. Most felony criminal offenses receive a jury trial. Depending on the amount of prison time you are facing, the jury may consist of 8 people or 12 people.Sometimes, the parties opt for a “bench trial” which is one heard by a judge. The prosecutor must prove all of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt at a trial. A Defendant never has an obligation to present any evidence at his/her own trial, but can do so if desired.
A plea agreement is a contract between the prosecutor and you which lowers the consequences you face in your case. It is a formal agreement that is reached between the prosecutor and you, with the help of your lawyer,after all factors of your case are taken into consideration. A plea agreement allows you to avoid going to trial and facing a harsher penalty. Whether a plea agreement is in your best interests or not depends on many variables and a thorough understanding of the applicable law in your case.
The sentence depends on what you are charged with and out of which court. State court follows Arizona sentencing laws which can be found online. Federal Courts follow the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Some crimes involve mandatory prison time. The kind of sentence you are looking at also depends on your criminal history. It is very important that you discuss the various sentence possibilities with an attorney.
Some criminal convictions will cause deportation if you are not a citizen. Immigration law is complex and it is very important that you speak with a lawyer concerning your rights.
In most instances, if the alleged victim does not want to pursue charges against you, the prosecutor will evaluate the case to see if the charges can be proved without that person. The prosecutor does not automatically dismiss a case if a victim chooses not to go forward. The prosecutor can also require the alleged victim to come to court and testify by issuing a subpoena. If the alleged victim fails to show up, the prosecutor can ask for an arrest warrant. In other words, lack of participation by an alleged victim does not necessarily mean the state will dismiss your charges.
If you have failed to show up to court in the past, or if you have been indicted in a criminal case, the prosecutor may have issued a warrant for your arrest. A lawyer can assist you in getting the warrant “quashed” or in helping you appear on the warrant. The judge will then evaluate your circumstances and make a decision about your release conditions.
It can be very intimidating to be interviewed by police officers. They are well trained in ways to ask you questions that put pressure on you. However, police are not permitted to coerce you into providing information through the use of force or undue pressure. If a confession was coerced, your attorney can ask that it be suppressed and that it not be presented at trial.
Police are permitted to search your home if they have a valid search warrant and under some circumstances without a warrant. You are not required to CONSENT to a search of your home by the police. If the police ask for permission to conduct a search, you are able to let them know that you need to ask for the advice of an attorney before allowing it, or that they need to have a warrant. If your home has already been searched, it is best to contact an attorney to discuss what to do next.
You have the right to a court hearing within 24 hours after an arrest if you are taken into custody. The prosecution then has 10 days to issue formal charges through a preliminary hearing or grand jury. Once an indictment is obtained, the prosecutor then has 150 days to take your matter to trial. Many people waive their speedy trial right so that they have adequate time to prepare a defense.
The only person you should talk to about your case is your attorney. There are certain privileges that also apply, which protect certain communications. For example, the marital fact privilege protects certain communications made between husband and wife.If you have any concerns about who you should discuss your matter with, it is best to check with your attorney.
It depends on what you are charged with and the experience level of the attorney. Keep in mind that you will want someone with experience in criminal law advising you and this often will cost more.
The attorneys at WELZ have decades of experience in criminal law. They have tried many cases in courts, including Federal Court, all over Arizona with great success. Most importantly, if you are charged with a crime, the WELZ attorneys will provide you with individualized attention, help you understand all aspects of your case, and fight for you every step of the way.
If you are charged with ANY criminal offense, it is best to get the advice of an attorney. Convictions for even minor criminal offenses can have a far reaching and unpredictable impact on other areas of your life.