New Orleans Criminal Defense Lawyers
The New Orleans criminal defense attorneys at J.C. Lawrence and Associates know that when you or a loved one is arrested in New Orleans or in other Louisiana parishes, it can be very frightening. Being handcuffed and taken to a police station for booking can be a traumatic experience. Our first recommendation when you are arrested is to remain calm, remain silent and contact a New Orleans criminal defense lawyer immediately.
What Happens When You Are Arrested?
When you are arrested in New Orleans or in other parishes, you will be taken to the police station where you are booked into custody. The booking process includes having your picture taken and getting fingerprinted. Law enforcement will take your personal property, such as your wallet, purse, cell phone and keys, for safekeeping and give you a voucher form listing all your items that are placed in storage. If you have contraband on you, meaning items that can indicate your guilt in a crime, then this contraband may be catalogued separately.
Upon arrest, you typically go through the booking process before you are given the opportunity to call a New Orleans criminal defense lawyer. If you anticipate an arrest is coming, you may be able to travel to the police station with your New Orleans criminal defense attorney and turn yourself in to be booked. In either case, after the booking process and/or if the police want to question you, law enforcement must give you an opportunity to speak with an attorney. When you are taken into custody, law enforcement should read you your “Miranda” rights, which include the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer. You should exercise those rights, refrain from saying anything, and request to speak to an attorney immediately.
After you are booked, you generally will be held in a holding cell for a short period of time until your first appearance. The first appearance is a hearing in front of a judge at which the charges against you are formally stated. This is your first chance to hear the legal reason for your arrest. You will need a New Orleans criminal defense attorney to represent you at this hearing, so if you have not contacted your own lawyer by that time, a public defender will be assigned to you. We recommend that you hire your own attorney at this time so that he/she can enter a notice of appearance in your case and make an argument on your behalf to arrange bail. The experienced New Orleans criminal defense lawyers at J.C. Lawrence and Associates, LLC will stand by you at your first appearance and represent you during the entire legal process after an arrest.
At the first appearance, you have an opportunity to tell the judge why you should be released on bail rather than being held in jail until your trial. In the best case scenario, you may be released on your own recognizance, which means that you will not have to post a bond or put up any money to secure your freedom. In the worst case scenario, the judge will deny bail, requiring you to remain in jail until your trial.
Generally, the court will grant bail unless you are a flight risk or you have been accused of a serious crime and pose a danger to society if released.
To maximize your chances of release at a reasonable bail amount, you need a New Orleans criminal defense attorney to argue on your behalf at the first appearance. If you or your family cannot afford to pay bail, a bail bondsman might be able to help. If you still cannot meet the bail requirements, you will be forced to stay in jail until the trial.
Screening and Investigation
After your first appearance the prosecutor will have between 45 and 120 days to file charges against you and keep you in custody. If you are released on your recognizance or post bond, the prosecutor will have between 90 and 150 days to file charges against you. During this period of time you should retain a qualified New Orleans criminal defense attorney to investigate your case and attempt to persuade the prosecutor to refuse the charges against you, place you into pre-trial diversion, or accept lesser charges.
Without representation during the screening phase, the prosecutor will rely only on the information provided by the police. Favorable information will not be presented and potentially favorable evidence will not be preserved.
Arraignment and Plea Bargain
At your arraignment, you also have the opportunity to enter a plea. It is essential to retain a qualified New Orleans criminal defense attorney to represent you when entering a plea. You need to fully understand your options and the implications of each option. Your decision regarding whether to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity will set the direction of your entire case.
After you have entered a plea and bail has been set, a trial date will be set. At the trial, your guilt or innocence will be decided. In some cases, especially those involving serious crimes, preliminary or pre-trial hearings also may be scheduled.
The entire process of arraignment is a very quick process, but a very important one. Be sure to have a lawyer before you go to arraignment.
The Pre-Trial and Trial Process
After arraignment and during the pre-trial period, you may be offered the chance to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Typically, a plea bargain will result in an agreement to plead guilty to lesser charges or a reduced penalty. Our experience in negotiating with prosecutors means we can help explore the best deal possible and advise you on what the deal means for your future.
If you cannot or do not wish to plea bargain, then your New Orleans criminal defense attorney will review the evidence against you and build a defense. In some instances, such as when there is insufficient evidence, your attorney may make motions to have the case against you dismissed. Other pretrial motions may involve your lawyer trying to suppress or exclude illegally obtained evidence. The result of these motions is often critical in determining whether your case is dismissed or plea bargained.
If your case moves forward to trial, your attorney will argue your case on your behalf. In a criminal trial, you do not have to prove your innocence; instead you must show that the prosecutor did not prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney may do this by poking holes in the prosecutor’s case or by raising affirmative defenses. After all of the evidence is presented, a jury (or occasionally a judge, if you’ve elected a bench trial) will decide whether the prosecutor established your guilt and if so, will determine the appropriate penalty.
Getting Help from an Experienced New Orleans Criminal Defense Lawyer
When you are arrested, the stakes are very high. You do not want a criminal record, a conviction, criminal sanctions or jail time. It is important to contact an experienced New Orleans criminal defense attorney right away to have the best chance of a favorable outcome. The dedicated New Orleans criminal defense lawyers at J.C. Lawrence and Associates have the unique knowledge and skills to aggressively contest the criminal charges against you. Contact us today to learn how we can help.