Practice Areas: Criminal Defense - Investigations
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You need the assistance of a dedicated professional to help you effectively deal with the criminal justice system. We represent clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies in both state and federal court at trial or appeal. Get High-Quality & Comprehensive Representation. We defend clients charged with crimes ranging in seriousness from DWI and petty theft to murder, terrorism, narcotics crimes and everything in between.
Being charged with a crime is a serious matter, regardless of the charge. That is why we treat every case with the utmost care and personal attention. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys.
Call the Law Offices of Rothman, Schneider, Soloway & Stern, LLP at 212-571-5500
Q. What is a criminal investigation?
Criminal investigation is an applied science that involves the study of facts, used to identify, locate and prove the guilt of an accused criminal. A complete criminal investigation can include searching, interviews, interrogations, evidence collection and preservation and various methods of investigation. Criminal investigations commonly employ many modern scientific techniques known collectively as forensic science.
Q. What do you do to investigate the charges against me?
The accused may hire a criminal defense lawyer to help with counsel and representation dealing with police or other investigators, perform his or her own investigation, and at times present exculpatory evidence that negates potential charges by the prosecutor.
Q. What if I am innocent?
If you were accused of a crime you didn't commit, you should begin formulating your defense immediately. Start by identifying evidence that could bolster your case, and refrain from offering the police anything incriminating. Beating a criminal charge will require perseverance, clear thinking, and effective legal representation, but it's certainly possible.
Recognize the possibility of government misconduct. Oftentimes, law enforcement officials and prosecutors have motives that lead them to be dishonest in the execution of their duties. When this happens, they can use their power to convict someone of a crime they didn't commit.
Understand false confessions or admissions. A lot of innocent people admit to doing something they didn't in fact do because they believe their cooperation with law enforcement and prosecutors will be better than trying to maintain their innocence.
Consider improper forensic science. In the present criminal investigatory climate, law enforcement is relying more and more on the use of forensic science, which is the application of science to legal problems. However, a lot of scientific methods being used have not been subjected to sufficient evaluation and this has led to a lot of errors.
Know the role of informants. Informants are people that give law enforcement officials information about crimes and misconduct. These informants often have incentives to work with law enforcement, and these incentives can lead to false statements. For example, informants are often past criminals themselves, and they could be lying to law enforcement in order to cover for themselves or for friends.
Consider inadequate defenses. Sometimes your criminal defense lawyer can inadequately represent you and make mistakes at trial.[ When a defense attorney incompetently represents a criminal defendant, it can often lead to that defendant being wrongfully convicted.
Q. How do I know if I have to go to trial?
When lawyers and defendants can’t agree about an issue as fundamental as whether to go to trial, it’s normally the defendant’s desire that prevails. Assuming that a defendant’s decision is neither unethical nor illegal (“My decision is that you should bump off the prosecution witness”), the lawyer is the defendant’s agent and must either carry out the defendant’s decision or convince the judge to let him withdraw from the case. But defendants should not obstinately refuse their attorneys’ advice. Defendants should ask questions to make sure that they understand the advice and why the lawyers think it’s in their best interests before making a decision.
Q. What other options do I have other than a trial?
In general, a criminal defense strategy for your criminal prosecution will emerge as your criminal defense attorney finds out more about what the prosecutor is planning to do. Because each criminal prosecution is different from every other, a particular criminal defense strategy is unique to the situation at hand.
For example, if a prosecutor in one case lays out a story that has the defendant at the scene of the crime, the defense attorney will probably ask questions that may lay out a different story showing the defendant at another location. In addition, how the criminal defendant acts and answers questions that the prosecutor poses will also change the criminal defense strategy.
Q. What is an appeal?
Occasionally an accused is convicted or improperly sentenced due to errors committed by a Judge, District court counsel or even his/her Defense lawyer. In these cases, an accused can apply to an appeals Court to have their conviction overturned or sentence varied.
Conducting an appeal requires both written and oral argument and may even require an application for bail pending the outcome of your appeal.
Q. How does a court decide whether to grant an appeal?
A higher level Court (either the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal) will assess whether or not an error was made during your trial or sentencing hearing that justifies the remedy you seek.
Q. When can I appeal a decision?
You have 30 days from the date you were convicted/sentenced to file a notice of appeal. It is crucial to consult with counsel immediately after you are convicted/sentenced in order to begin the appeal process. A failure to do so may result in you not being able to appeal your matter.
Q. Can I be released on bail if I am appealing a decision?
An application can be made for your release pending your appeal. There are a number of factors that the appellant level court must consider in deciding whether you are an appropriate candidate for release. These factors include the strength of your ground of appeal, whether you will surrender yourself into custody on the date of your appeal hearing and that your release is not contrary to the public interest.
Q. What is a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
A criminal defense lawyer is a lawyer specializing in the defense of individuals and companies charged with criminal activity. Some criminal defense lawyers are privately retained, while others are employed by the various jurisdictions with criminal courts for appointment to represent indigent persons; the latter are generally called public defenders.
The terminology is imprecise because each jurisdiction may have different practices with various levels of input from state and federal law or consent decrees. Some jurisdictions use a rotating system of appointments, with judges appointing a private practice attorney or firm for each case.
Q. What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
Felonies and misdemeanors are two classifications of crimes used in most states, with petty offenses being the third. Petty offenses are sometimes called violations and are usually punished by a fine with no jail time. They are often handled by magistrates in municipal courts and the entire process rarely takes longer than a day. A defendant is notified that he's being charged with a petty offense by issuance of a ticket, which specifies the court date and the fine that will be judged. Jury trials are not available for petty offenses.
Misdemeanors are punishable by more substantial fines and sometimes jail time, usually less than one year. Any jail term would most likely be served in a local or county jail, rather than a state or federal correctional institution. Like the petty offense, misdemeanors are usually adjudicated in a shortened trial, where defendants do not have the right to court-appointed lawyers if they can't afford one. Jury trials can be available, depending upon the type of misdemeanor alleged.
Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are often classified by degrees, with a first degree felony being the most serious. Many states require that a prosecutor obtain an indictment from a grand jury before charging someone with a felony. Felonies are punishable by substantial fines and prison sentences in excess of one year. If you are convicted of felony, you will most likely serve your jail time in a state or federal correctional institution. The court must provide an accused person with an attorney if he or she cannot afford one. A jury trial is also available for a felony prosecution. Other constitutional rights such as the right to a speedy trial are also involved when a person is charged with a felony.
Conviction of a felony brings with it more disadvantages than just higher fines and longer jail time. In some states, persons convicted of felonies cannot serve on juries, or purchase or possess firearms and may not be employed in certain professions, such as law, teaching, or the military.
Q. What defenses do I have?
There are a variety of ways to defend against criminal charges. Rothman, Schneider, Soloway & Stern, LLP will identify the potential weaknesses in the prosecution's case keeping in mind all of the elements of the offence that the prosecution must prove.
Individuals are often charged with criminal offences as a result of evidence that is obtained through a police search. The lawyers at Rothman, Schneider, Soloway & Stern, LLP will assess whether these searches were conducted in violation of your constitutional rights; resulting evidence may be inadmissible in your trial.
Q. Is it possible that my charges will be withdrawn?
If you are charged with an offense such as mischief or theft of property under $1,000.00, and do not have a related criminal record, you may be eligible for the Alternative Charge or a Misdemeanor charge. If you are accepted into alternative program and successfully complete the requirements as outlined the charges will be withdrawn.
In the event you suffer from mental health issues, you may be eligible for the Mental Health program. If you are accepted into the program, and you successfully complete the requirements of the program, the charges will be withdrawn.
Q. What happens if I am found guilty?
If you are found guilty after a trial or after pleading guilty, the Judge will impose a sentence. You should talk to your lawyer or court worker about what happened in court. They will tell you if you have to pay a fine, meet with a probation officer, or follow any special rules.
The judge may put you on probation. This means that you do not have to go to jail, but you have to report to a probation officer and do other things in your community. The probation officer's job is to make sure you follow the judge's orders. For example, you might be required to stay home at night, and your probation officer will check to make sure you are there. Your probation officer can help you make a plan to help you follow the judge's orders.
What are alternative options to prison?
Sentences for a criminal conviction can take many forms, and a conviction doesn’t always mean a trip to jail or prison. Alternative sentences can include different combinations of the following: a suspended sentence, probation, fines, restitution, community service and deferred adjudication/pretrial diversion. Judges typically determine whether to impose alternative sentences based on the type and severity of the crime, the age of the defendant, the defendants criminal history, the effect of the crime on the victims, and the defendants remorse. The articles below explore the different types of alternative sentences in more detail.
As an alternative to imprisonment, a judge can issue a suspended sentence where he or she either refrains from handing down a sentence or decides on a sentence but refrains from carrying it out. This is generally reserved for less serious crimes or first-time offenders. Suspended sentences can be unconditional or conditional. An unconditional suspended sentence simply suspends the sentence with no strings attached.
If the suspended sentence is conditional, the judge can hold off from either imposing or executing the punishment so long as the defendant fulfills the condition of the suspension. Common conditions can include enrolling in a substance abuse program and not committing any further crimes. If the conditions aren’t met, the judge can then either impose or execute a sentence.
Another alternative to prison is probation. Similar to a suspended sentence, probation releases a defendant back into the community, but he or she does not have the same level of freedom as a normal citizen. Courts typically grant probation for first-time or low-risk offenders. Statutes determine when probation is possible, but it is up to the sentencing judge to determine whether or not to actually grant probation.
Probation comes with conditions that restrict behavior, and if the probationer violates one of those conditions, the court may revoke or modify the probation. Courts have a great deal of discretion when imposing probation conditions.
Almost all of us have had to pay a fine once or twice, most often in the form of a speeding or parking ticket. People convicted of more serious crimes also have to pay fines in many situations, although the amount of the fine is usually much more substantial than a traffic ticket. Generally, fines are imposed to punish the offender, help compensate the state for the offense, and deter any future criminal acts.
Restitution is like a fine, but the payment made by the perpetrator of a crime goes to the victims of that crime instead of the court or municipality. Judges often order restitution be paid in cases where victims suffered some kind of financial setback as the result of a crime. The payment is designed to make the victims whole and restore them financially to the point they were at prior to the commission of the crime.
For example, a graffiti artist who spray paints the side of a business may be ordered to pay restitution to the business owners who could then repaint the building. In another example, a defendant who injured his victim in a fight may be ordered to compensate the victim for his medical expenses.
Court Ordered Community Service
In some cases, a judge will order a criminal offender to perform work on behalf of the community, usually in exchange for a reduction of fines and/or incarceration. Court ordered community service can accompany some other form of alternative sentence with the intent that performing community service offers more benefit to society than being incarcerated. The community benefits from the work that the offender performs and avoids the cost of incarceration while the offender benefits from a lesser sentence and hopefully learns from his or her work experience.
Deferred Adjudication / Pretrial Diversion
Certain types of offenses and offenders may qualify for programs that result in having charges dismissed if the defendant completes specified conditions. Sometimes called deferred adjudication or diversion, these programs take the defendant out of the ordinary process of prosecution so he or she can complete certain conditions. Once he or she is done, either the prosecutor or the court dismisses the charges.
The goal of diversion programs is to allow a defendant time to demonstrate that they are capable of behaving responsibly, and they are typically used for drug offenses or first-time offenders. Normally, the conditions imposed include some form of counseling and/or probation, and require the defendant to stay out of trouble.
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