In general, a felony can be defined as a criminal offense that results in a prison sentence of at least one year or longer. Depending on the state, felonies are typically divided into different categories based on the severity or on the nature of the crime. For instance, the majority of states use a numerical or alphabetical classification system to show the degree of the offense. Accordingly, in such states, murder may be classified as either a Class 1 or Class A felony.
As for states that do not have a classification system, they may categorize a felony in accordance with the nature of a crime. For example, a felony that results in severe bodily harm to another will be considered a violent felony in these states. However, most felony charges involve an act of violence. Thus, a defendant facing felony charges should prepare themselves for the possibility that they may need to serve a prison sentence.
In order to build a strong felony case and to reduce the chances of having to go to prison, the best thing that you can do for yourself if you are facing felony charges is to hire an experienced criminal attorney. You should search for a criminal attorney who has a successful track record in cases that are similar to your own and whom you would feel comfortable working with or would entrust with secretive details about your case.
Two of the most essential elements of a felony case are making sure that you have solid evidence that supports your case and knowing the relevant laws. In this case, knowing the law means having a genuine understanding of not only what the prosecutor will need to prove, but also your rights, available defenses, and the consequences of being convicted if you lose your case.
This is why it is so important that you hire a qualified criminal attorney who can provide advice on all of these factors. In addition, a criminal attorney can draft necessary legal documents, knows how to use legal documents to form a case strategy, and can call upon expert witnesses to present a compelling defense on your behalf.
Keep in mind that if you cannot afford to hire a criminal attorney to represent you, the state has a constitutional duty to provide one. Therefore, if you cannot afford a lawyer, you should inform the court. The court will direct you to the proper state resources where they will determine if your financial situation warrants appointing a public defender.
Although you cannot choose which public defender takes your case, a public defender is an attorney who practices criminal law. Thus, they will have the requisite knowledge and proper tools to use to represent you in a felony case. Again, it is strongly recommended that you do not represent yourself against felony charges.
What Documentation and Questions Should I Compile Before I Meet with My Criminal Attorney?
There are certain documents that a defendant should compile before they meet with their criminal attorney. Some documents that they should gather and bring with them to the meeting include:
- Documents that pertain to their current felony case (e.g., search warrants, arraignment papers, etc.);
- Documents that relate to a prior criminal case (e.g., rap sheet, arrest record, past conviction, etc.);
- Evidence that supports dropping the felony case, such as recordings, images, videos, text messages, and so on;
- If possible, a list of both eyewitnesses and character witnesses along with their contact information; and
- Any other documents that could help the defendant clear the felony charges.
In addition, the defendant should also prepare a list of questions for the criminal attorney. For instance, they should ask them questions about their services like what percentage of felony cases they have won in the past and how much they charge to take a case.
Alternatively, if a person has already hired a criminal attorney, then they should ask them questions about the felony case. For example, the penalties they might receive if they are convicted and the strategies the lawyer will use to create a strong defense.
What Makes a Felony Defense Case Strong? What Makes it Weak?
In general, the majority of criminal cases are decided based on the strength of the evidence. This single factor will indicate the strength of a felony case. For instance, if the prosecutor does not have any evidence or cannot prove the elements of the crime, then it will be much easier for the defendant to prove their innocence or that the case should be dropped.
On the other hand, if the defendant cannot supply sufficient evidence that supports their argument or proves that they did not commit the crime, then this can weaken their case and make it easier for the prosecutor to convict them. Accordingly, how strong or weak a felony defense case is largely depends on the evidence and strategies employed by each side.
Another detail that can affect the strength of a felony defense case is whether the defendant hires a criminal attorney to represent them and how skilled that particular attorney is in handling felony defense cases.
One other important factor in felony defense cases is whether the defendant is a repeat or first-time offender. This will make a huge difference when it comes to issuing penalties. For instance, repeat offenders typically receive harsher punishments and may have to overcome extra hurdles to prove that they are innocent. This is especially true if they have been charged with the same felony offense as in their previous case.
What are Some Dos and Don’ts for Felony Defense Cases?
Some dos and don’ts when involved in a felony defense case include:
- Do hire an experienced criminal attorney to handle the case;
- Do ask the attorney how they charge for their services before hiring them (e.g., flat rate, hourly fee, etc.);
- Do gather evidence or other important case-related items to give to the attorney;
- Do behave respectfully towards the prosecutor, the judge, other parties, and so forth;
- Do be sure to ask the attorney about all potential legal options, consequences, and defenses;
- Do dress appropriately and be on time when attending court hearings;
- Do be honest with the defense attorney when reviewing and preparing the case;
- Do not delay in seeking legal representation;
- Do not hire an inexperienced criminal attorney if the crime resulted in serious bodily harm or death of another;
- Do not speak to law enforcement without a lawyer present;
- Do not fail to appear in court when required;
- Do not talk about the case with anyone (e.g., friends, family, social media, etc.); and
- Do not contact witnesses, victims, or jury members at any point before, during, or after trial (with some exceptions.
When Do I Absolutely Need a Criminal Attorney?
It is generally recommended that you hire a criminal attorney any time you have been charged with committing a crime. This is especially true when the charges involve a felony offense and is even more important when that felony resulted in serious bodily harm or death of another party (e.g., an aggravated or violent felony).
You should also strongly consider hiring a criminal attorney if you are a repeat offender and/or are currently on probation or parole for a previous conviction. In such a scenario, a new conviction could lead to a number of severe legal consequences like having to pay higher criminal fines or being sentenced to serve more time in prison.
Finally, one other instance in which you may need to hire a criminal attorney for a felony defense case is if you believe that the charges against you should be dropped or that your penalties should be reduced. A criminal attorney can propose an alternative sentencing option on your behalf as well. Though it should be noted that while retaining a lawyer will certainly increase your chances of receiving a lighter sentence, it will not guarantee it.