"This is an aspect of crime stories I never fully appreciated until I became one; it is so ruinously expensive to mount a defense that, innocent to guity, the accusation is itself a devastating punishment. Every defendant pays a price." – William Landay, Defending Jacob
Criminal Defense Law
The criminal justice system can be very complex and confusing to anyone that has been charged with a crime. Bergstrom Law specializes in a wide variety of criminal law cases and strives to minimize this complexity and confusion. Our attorneys have successfully litigated both simple and high profile cases and are dedicated to each client to ensure the best possible outcome of each individual case. Our specific areas of practice vary from theft and shoplifting to assault and battery. Regardless of your alleged charges, we will diligently work with you to represent you in the best possible light while working with the court systems to negotiate your case and make sure your legal rights are being met according to the legal justice system.
Criminal law is a broad area of law that relates to certain conduct that is dangerous to citizens, or damaging to the society. Such conduct is labeled a “crime” and is made punishable by fines, imprisonment, or other sentences. What is deemed as a crime and its corresponding punishment varies by federal, state and local government levels.
Criminal law does not concern itself with disputes between individuals. State and local government jurisdictions define and prosecute people who commit crimes that range from minor traffic violations to serious, violent offenses like assault, battery and murder. Whereas a criminal case filed in federal court, involves a violation of a federal law or the alleged crime took place on federal property.
A person who is charged with a crime is called the defendant. The governmental body (state, local or federal) that files and pursues the charges against the defendant is represented by an attorney called a prosecutor. Crimes can be broken down into elements, which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal elements are set forth in criminal statutes, or cases in jurisdictions that allow for common-law crimes. With some exceptions, every crime has at least three elements: a criminal act, a criminal intent and concurrence of the two. The term conduct is often used to reflect the criminal act and intent elements.
Do I Need a Criminal Defense lawyer?
Any person who is facing a criminal charge, no matter how minor, will benefit from consulting a competent criminal defense lawyer. Even if the lawyer is not retained to provide representation in court, a consultation will help a criminal defendant understand the nature of the charges filed, available defenses, what plea bargains are likely to be offered, and what is likely to happen in the event of conviction.
For serious charges, it will be a rare defendant who does not benefit from having a competent criminal defense lawyer assist with the negotiation of a plea bargain, or to prepare a case for trial. A criminal defense lawyer will also be able to identify important pretrial issues, and bring appropriate motions which might significantly improve a defendant's situation, or even result in the dismissal of charges.
Example of a typical criminal process:
Criminal Law Process
If you're dealing with the criminal justice system because of an arrest or investigation, it's in your best interest to understand the criminal defense process. Of course, there are differences between the federal and state versions of the criminal defense process, and there are significant variations among the 50 states. However, the basics of the criminal defense process are similar across the U.S.
Investigation or Arrest
Before an arrest for a crime, an individual may be the target of an investigation by law enforcement officers, and may even be under surveillance. At such an early point in the criminal defense process, it's wise to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Law enforcement officers (whether police, sheriff, federal agents, Coast Guard, etc.) sometimes overstep their authority. In addition, sometimes criminal law procedures and protocols are lacking or not properly adhered to or followed per the criminal justice system.
In other cases, officers make an arrest without an investigation. An alleged crime may have been observed by law enforcement, or the arrest may be done based on other available information. A person's constitutional rights must be protected throughout the criminal defense process, and at the time of arrest, a person has the right to remain silent, and the right to contact an attorney.
Charges and Bail:
After the arrest, law enforcement officers put the arrested person through some type of booking process. The decision regarding what crime or crimes the individual will be charged with is made by the prosecutor. At the charges stage, a person has the right to know exactly what charges are being brought against him or her.
A person who has been arrested will probably have the opportunity to make bail by posting money or a bond as a surety for his or her future appearance in court. Before any money or bond is posted as bail, the person in custody should contact an attorney who is familiar with the criminal defense process in that specific locale.
Hearings, Trial, Pleas:
After a prosecutor decides on the criminal charges, a criminal defense attorney representing the accused person may be able to negotiate to get the charges reduced or dismissed. If the charges are not dismissed, the next stage may be a preliminary hearing, a probable cause hearing, or a trial. At these steps in the criminal defense process, a defense attorney will strive to minimize the negative consequences for the defendant.
Detailed Criminal Process Flowchart
NOTE: Time limits will vary by case complexity and court calendar.
If a trial does not result in an acquittal (a not guilty verdict), a defendant should be aware that there are widely differing guidelines for sentencing. These differences are based on the severity of the crime, the circumstances of the crime, the defendant's past criminal record, and other factors. A criminal defense attorney can inform a defendant of the possibilities that can be expected, but the final decision about a criminal sentence is up to the judge.
Contact an experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer today.
Bergstrom Law is here to assist you with your legal needs!
Call us today at 678-648-1794.