How Much Do You Charge For A Consultation?
Nothing! Consultations are free and can be completed over the phone or in person.
How Long Do Consultations Last?
Typically, a consultation lasts somewhere between 30 minutes and one hour. If you are short on time, we can cut to the quick version and the consultation can be completed in 30 minutes or less.
Do You Provide Free Legal Advice?
Yes - but that is a loaded question. I am happy to discuss your case in general terms and try to give you some limited advice, however, without knowing and studying all the facts of your specific case I can not possibly give you a full assessment.
Do I Need A Lawyer? Can I Handle My Case Without An Attorney?
Maybe...People often ask if they need an attorney to handle their case or if they can do it on their own. The truth is: this is a question every person must answer for themselves, I can not answer it for you. Everyone has the right to proceed "pro se" (represent yourself) if you choose. The court can not force you to hire an attorney. However, just because you can do something does not mean you should.
While it is possible to handle a case on your own, it is probably not advisable. Just like I could... possibly... build a home on my own, the result is probably going to be much better if I let a trained professional do it for me. The law is complex. No matter how "straight forward" you think the situation is, almost no case is "simple". When you are charged with a crime your reputation, your future, and your freedom are on the line. By representing yourself you are taking a large unnecessary risk. Hiring an attorney can be the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony conviction, jail and probation, or a conviction and an acquittal. When your case is over, you do not want to look back and wonder if things might have been different.
Often, the first place many people turn for information when representing themselves is the Internet. Although there is a wealth of information available out there, every criminal case is unique and the argument or the result in one case may not apply to another. The law is not one size fits all, every jurisdiction has unique laws, rules, customs, and procedures - how a criminal case is handled changes state to state, county to county, and even judge to judge. Information found on the Internet is often useless, incorrect, or outdated. Attempting to use this information can hurt your case rather than help. Even if you track down the correct information, the court process and procedures are confusing and the courts are unforgiving when they are not properly followed.
Almost daily see pro se defendants (people representing themselves) sputter out useless and inapplicable law in court. They are frustrated and upset when they find out that the court has rejected their argument because they did not follow proper procedure or utilize the correct Idaho law. Truthfully, it is hard to watch. I feel bad for these people. Just because the constitution allows you to represent yourself does not mean that the court will treat you any different than an experienced attorney. You are held to the same standard as an attorney with 30 years of practice under your belt. No one will guide you through the process or take it easy on you because this is your first time through the system. Pro se defendant's often end up losing not because they have a bad case, it is because they do not have the training or experience with the law, the process, and the procedures that an attorney would have. This may seem harsh or cruel, and I have sat through many cringe-worthy hearings where a pro se defendant, red in the face with anger and frustration, is yelling about how it is unfair for them to be held to the same standard as an attorney, but this is how the system works and complaining about it when something goes wrong will not change the result.
I also often see pro se defendants enter into bad plea deals. Often a large portion of my job is negotiating good plea resolutions for my clients. I only know what a "good deal" looks like because I have reviewed thousands of plea offers for my clients and watched as thousands of other cases are sentenced by judges. Without this experience evaluating offers made by the prosecution would be nearly impossible. This means that a pro se defendant may think that the prosecutor is cutting them a break when they enter a plea deal when in reality they are being taken advantage of. Further, plea deals are often motivated by the prosecutor's likelihood of losing at trial - the more likely they are to lose at trial the better the offer. As winning at trial is very difficult for pro se defendants due to their lack of experience with things like the Idaho Rules of Evidence, the offer made to them may be much less favorable than would have been made if they had an attorney.
Abraham Lincoln once said "He who represents himself has a fool for a client." Our criminal justice system is not designed to be user-friendly. If you choose to represent yourself you may regret it in the long run.
I encourage individuals to contact an attorney before making this decision. Even if you do not end up hiring an attorney it is important to understand your rights and your options. During this time of crisis having a knowledgeable and trustworthy attorney by your side can be critical to making any important decisions. In the end, it is your decision whether you proceed on your own or with the help of an attorney; you have to do what is right for you. However, I do not charge anything for consultations so what do you have to lose by simply making a call and discussing your situation? It may the most important thing you do.
Can You Guarantee Me A Result?
NO! Nor would I ever even consider making such a guarantee! There is no set equation to determine the result of a case and I am not a fortune teller. Every case is different and it is impossible to predict how a case will resolve.
Will I Need To Be In Court?
Yes - however, there are exceptions. The majority of the time the court will require the defendant's presence at all hearings. However, if you are charged with a misdemeanor and live out of state there are times where I can ask the court to have you appear via telephone or through your attorney. In the end it is up to the court as to whether it will allow this request, but typically if the request is reasonable, the court is willing to provide reasonable accommodation.
When Should I Show Up To Court?
You should arrive ten to fifteen minutes early, unless your attorney tells you otherwise. There's probably no need to show up more than fifteen minutes early.
Do not show up late! Do not even risk it! Showing up late to court can result in the judge issuing a warrant for your arrest due to your "failure to appear." Even if you are able to rush in and convince the judge not to issue a warrant, keep in mind that you are trying to convince the judge that you are a good, law abiding, responsible individual - showing up late will never help you make this point. Also, in my experience, courtroom clocks run about five minutes fast. "On time" according to you will be "late" according to the court. Show up early and save yourself some stress.
What Should I Do When I Get To Court?
I meet my clients in the hall right outside the courtroom. Typically, I ask my clients to just sit on a bench there and wait for me to show up. If you don't see me and the clock is rapidly approaching the time set for your hearing, don't panic... I have not forgotten about you - often I am back in chambers talking with the judge or speaking to the prosecutor about your case. If you are nervous or if you are uncertain about where to be, go into the courtroom and wait for your name to be called.
Do I Need To Check In With Anyone When I Get To Court?
No. The judge will just call out your name and case number when they are ready to hear your case. You don't need to inform anyone that you've arrived.
How Do I Know What Courtroom My Case Is In?
This will depend upon the county. If your case is in Ada or Canyon counties your name will appear on an electronic board immediately beyond the metal detectors. If you can not find information about where you are supposed to be, ask the nearest public official or look for a help desk. If you can not find a public official ask the nearest attorney. Someone will take a moment to help you find where you are supposed to be.
How Long Will My Hearing Take?
Court hearings are run off a docket. This means that several cases are scheduled for the same time. There is no set time for your specific case How long your hearing will take depends on a number of factors: the county, the type of case, the number of cases on the docket, the number of cases ahead of you on the docket, the judge, etc. Cases are taken up one by one, there is no way to jump the line. Depending on the day a hearing can be fairly quick or quite lengthy.
If you have an Ada County or Canyon County misdemeanor case typically you will be in and out of the courtroom in an hour or less. Felony cases can take much longer: you should plan for 1- 2.5 hours.
If your hearing is taking a long time, keep your cool! It never helps your situation to stand up and ask the judge "how long this going to take" (which I have seen done before), tell the judge you have somewhere to be (again, seen many times), or to be upset when you finally get before the judge. No one wants to be there waiting, just suck up and bare it - You have been charged with a crime, the judge does not care if this an inconvenience.
Should I Bring Anything With Me To Court?
It never hurts to bring all your case documents with you, however, it is not necessary to bring anything to court unless your attorney or the judge has previously told you differently.
Should I Just Plead Guilty?
Although this decision must be made by you, in most cases, there is nothing to gain by just pleading guilty. When a person pleads guilty, they are putting all giving away all their power and ability to negotiate. Pleading not guilty will allow a defendant to discover what evidence the prosecution has against them and how solid their charges are. In some cases, the evidence may be very weak and worth fighting in court. A resolution can also be negotiated for a lesser charge or penalty. The best course of action is typically to plead not guilty and contact an experienced attorney.
Should I Accept A Plea Bargain?
This changes case by case. It will depend on the facts of the case, the plea bargain being offered, and the effects of a conviction on you personally. While a plea may be a good idea in one case it may not in another. In fact, even under the same facts and the same offer a plea deal may be reasonable to one person but have dire effects on another. Only after reviewing the case, talking with the prosecutor, and understanding the cost/benefit to the client will an attorney be able to advice you about a plea deal.
What Is The First Thing I Should Do After An Arrest?
Take a deep breath - you need to be calm to make good decisions. Make sure you understand why you are being arrested. The best thing for you to do from this point is call an attorney to discuss your case.
What Happens If I Violate Probation?
Any violation of the terms of your probation can result in an arrest and even additional penalties that are greater than the ones you originally faced. For this reason, it is important to make sure that you fully understand the terms of your probation.
Will I Go To Jail If Convicted On A First DUI Charge?
Each case has its own unique evidence, and it is up to the judge to determine sentence based upon those unique set of facts. The maximum punishment for a first DUI is up to one year in jail - although this is a possibility, it almost never happens. In most cases, if you are convicted of a first time DUI, you will usually be sentenced to probation, a drivers license suspension, fines/cost, alcohol education, and some sort term of jail - 5-10 days is not uncommon. Typically this jail time can be served through community service or SILD (picking up trash on the side of the road in an orange vest).
Other Questions? - Give me a call and we can discuss any questions you have. I don't charge for consultations.
My blog may also have some of the answers you are looking for. I often write articles in an attempt to answer questions I hear on a regular basis. Your ID Attorney Blog.