FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CRIMINAL DEFENSE REPRESENTATION
Q: What will happen at my first court appearance?
A: At your first court appearance, called an Arraignment, the Judge is required to 1) tell you the charges against you, 2) advise you about your basic rights (your right to a lawyer, your right to a trial) and 3) ask whether you want to plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” If a lawyer accompanies you to the arraignment, he or she will probably waive the reading of the charges – so that the details of the charges against you will not be read out loud in court. In order to save time, he or she may also waive having the Judge advise you of your rights. Finally, your lawyer will enter your plea on your behalf.
Q: Will I have to speak in court at Arraignment?
A: Generally, your lawyer will be doing most, if not all, of the talking. The Judge may ask questions, such as your current address or phone number, for the court’s records. You will not be asked any questions about the events which led to your arrest.
Q: What if I actually did what I am accused of? Shouldn’t I just plead guilty?
A: For several reasons, the answer is almost always no. First, there may have been errors in the police investigation–or in the paperwork—that can cause the case to be dismissed. Even if the case is not dismissed, such errors can improve your chances to negotiate a favorable result. Second, a plea of guilty exposes you to a wide range of consequences, some more severe than others. Before you plead guilty, you want to educate the Judge about your history, background, and character in such a way that he or she will impose a lenient sentence rather than a harsh one. A not guilty plea gives you and your lawyer time to prepare and present your strongest arguments and strategy.
Q: What is a Retainer?
A: A Retainer is the contract between you and your lawyer. It sets forth, among other things, 1) the amount that you will be paying for legal services and out-of-pocket expenses (for example, investigators, transcripts, or experts), 2) the manner in which payments are to be made, 3) the work that is expected to be done, 4) the lawyer’s duties and obligations to you, and 5) your responsibilities to the lawyer with respect to preparing and presenting your defenses. If your legal fees are going to be more than $3000, New York State requires that the Retainer agreement must be in writing.
Q: How quickly can my case be resolved?
A: Every case is different, but successful trial preparations and successful negotiations take time, especially in serious or complicated cases. Even in simpler cases, however, the passage of time can decrease the anger and emotions that often make cases difficult to resolve in their early stages. Although you want your ordeal as a criminal defendant to be over as quickly as possible, patience will often win you a better result.