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How to Handle Your First Criminal Charge

Understanding Your First Criminal Offense

When facing criminal charges for the first time, it’s essential to remain calm. As attorneys, we often witness our clients experiencing a host of negative emotions as they endure each step of the process — which is understandable. Being arrested and facing criminal charges, especially for the first time, can be a harrowing experience. However, remaining calm can help ease the process as you work with your attorney. Here’s what you need to know.

Preparing Yourself: What to Expect When Facing Criminal Charges

Understanding of all the facts that are relevant to your case can help you be better prepared. Knowing what you are being accused of and how they affect the charges can be beneficial in building your defense. Also, learning about the typical procedures for your type of case can ease some concerns about the next steps.

The Arrest

Prosecutors are particular about arresting the proper individual accused of a crime. This means they generally won’t arrest and charge a citizen unless they believe there’s sufficient evidence to convict. Therefore, an arrest should be taken very seriously.

During the arrest, the officers will read your rights and book you. The standard booking procedure will involve photographing you and taking fingerprints. They will search you and confiscate your personal possessions. You may be asked to sign off on the inventory of your belongings, but be careful about doing so. Don’t sign if you notice any unfamiliar items in the mix.

The next major step in the process is the arraignment. This is when the charges against you will become official, and you’ll have the chance to state your plea. This is also when the prosecutor will make a recommendation to the judge regarding bail. If they determine you're a flight risk, the bail will likely be set much higher. Bail is also sometimes denied if the judge believes you might be a danger to the public.

As your case goes on, the charges against you can change. If the prosecution uncovers more evidence against you during their investigation, new charges may occur. Likewise, charges may be reduced or dropped altogether if evidence reveals innocence or lesser involvement in the crime.

Legal Counsel

It’s crucial to receive guidance from an attorney before the arraignment stage. You’ll have the chance to meet with your attorney after your arrest, but you don’t have to wait until then. If you have reason to believe charges are coming soon, make contact now. This will give us more time to work on your case.

Stating your plea is much more complicated than saying whether you are guilty or not. Your attorney may decide that it’s best to have you agree to a plea bargain. That means you’ll be pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for skipping a trial. Prosecutors and defense attorneys often agree that a plea bargain is best for cases where there’s a great deal at stake for both sides.

Awaiting Trial

If you're a first offender with a good track record, you could be eligible for the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI). This option allows the prosecutor to drop the charges in exchange for the successful completion of specific actions on your part.

Requirements may include:

  • Showing up for regular drug testing.

  • Completing community service.

  • Paying fines or restitution.

  • Undergoing rehabilitation activities, such as anger-management classes.

PTI usually isn't an option for severe charges involving violence. If it isn’t an option, and you haven’t agreed to a plea bargain, your next step will be going to trial.

While you await your trial, you’ll either be out on bail or held in jail. Either way, you will have opportunities to meet with your attorney to plan your defense. Your attorney will guide you throughout the process.

Know That There is Hope for the Future

During this hard time, it’s important to stay positive and focus on your future. Even when going through a difficult time, there are still some things you can do to remain hopeful.

Take Care of Yourself

If you’re out on bail, you have an opportunity to look after yourself better than you would in jail. Use this opportunity to eat well, get adequate sleep, and stay focused on what you need to do to prepare for your trial. Seek support from loved ones and the local community, if possible.

Gain Perspective

Adopting a healthy mindset can be key to moving on with your life. Even if you’re facing jail time, know that this can be a turning point. Many people have gone on to develop wonderful lives for themselves after a difficult legal battle. No matter what happens, choose not to give up on yourself.. This mindset will help you stay calm as you endure the trial.

Finding the Right Lawyer: How to Choose

When deciding on an attorney, you’ll want to look for someone with trial experience for criminal defense. Not every attorney has gone through a trial, so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask us about this. We will share our experience level with you, and together, we will determine whether we are a good fit for your case.

Hager & Schwartz, P.A. can offer an aggressive defense that will help protect you in court. We have experience in both prosecution and criminal defense. We use our knowledge of both sides of the courtroom to develop strategies to assist our clients.If you’re facing criminal charges in Broward County, Florida, we’re here to help.

Contact us today at (954) 840-8713 to learn your rights when it comes to a first offense. We are here to help you every step of the way.

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