Posted on: 14 September 2022Share
Criminal charges broadly fall under the umbrella categories of felony or misdemeanor, with some states also classifying crimes as felony-misdemeanors. This latter category can be confusing, but it's not a different type of offense. Instead, prosecutors typically have some leeway in pursuing these charges as one or the other.
Since misdemeanors are the lesser of these two charges, many people wonder what to do following a misdemeanor charge. Should you meet with a lawyer? Should you plead guilty and get it over with? While every case is different, the simple answer is that misdemeanors are still criminal charges, which means you should never write them off as a minor inconvenience.
What Should You Do First?
First, do not feel compelled to admit guilt or speak to the police. Once you know you're facing a criminal charge, you are well within your rights to remain silent and ask for a lawyer. Although many misdemeanors may seem minor, it's hard to know the penalties you may face or whether a prosecutor will attempt to pursue more severe penalties.
Even if you've done nothing wrong, it's easy to accidentally provide investigators with incriminating evidence that a prosecutor will use against you later. In almost all cases, it's better to ask to speak with an attorney and avoid willingly providing information that may harm your case. Most importantly, don't agree to discuss any deals before speaking with a lawyer.
What's at Stake?
If taking these steps seems extreme for a "minor" charge, it's important to remember that the penalties for misdemeanors can vary substantially. Many misdemeanors may carry hefty fines and potential jail time. More importantly, a conviction will leave you with a criminal history, which can substantially impact your life even if the immediate penalties are not particularly severe.
Investigators or the prosecutor may try to convince you that the consequences of accepting guilt will be relatively minor. Still, it can be hard to make this judgment under stressful circumstances, even if you're receiving an offer in good faith. Consulting with a professional defense attorney will help you objectively evaluate your situation to decide how to proceed.
What Happens Next?
Depending on the charges, you may need to arrange bail to secure release from jail. Your case will proceed through several steps, including arraignment, pretrial, trial, and, if convicted, sentencing. It's critical that you speak with a criminal defense attorney before your arraignment since this is the step where the court will expect you to enter a plea.
The earlier you start working with a lawyer, the better your chance of a successful outcome, whether that means fighting your charge in court or agreeing to a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
Contact a law firm like Baker Law Firm to learn more.