For many who find themselves involved in the criminal justice system there can be a significant period of time between an arrest and a criminal charge. The Prosecuting Attorney’s office has a whole year to file a Misdemeanor and can take up to three years to file a Felony case. Many people make the critical error of waiting until the charges are filed before seeking the help of an experienced attorney.
Anyone arrested should assume charges will be filed and needs to begin an investigation into the case immediately. A potential Defendant will want all of his or her witnesses contacted and their statements as soon as possible in order to preserve them for a future trial date. Witnesses frequently change addresses and can become difficult to find a year and a half later and on the eve of a trial. In many cases, as time passes some witnesses are simply less willing to be involved.
The potential Defendant also needs to be prepared for a warrant to issued once the charge is filed. All felonies trigger a warrant upon the filing of the charge and nowadays many misdemeanors also are sent straight to warrant status as opposed to the court simply issuing a summons. Often the initial bond setting is an impossible amount to post. The Defendant will want to have an attorney immediately available to speak with the Judge about setting the bond at a reasonable amount.
As the attorney, I want to be able to highlight to the Judge that my clients have been proactive in dealing with the charge well before it was even filed. I also want to be able to argue that the Defendant has already made changes which are needed to be successful on bond (such as addressing substance abuse issues) should the case require it.
Furthermore there are several case-specific reasons to immediately hire an attorney. For example, in the matter of a Driving While Intoxicated cases, the driver will be issued a 15 day notice that their license will be suspended for either blowing beyond the legal limit or for refusing the breathalyser test. These suspensions must be appealed almost immediately after the DWI arrest. This requires that drivers hire an attorney within days to begin the defense of the case. The attorney must be immediately prepared to aggressively challenge the suspension in order to better position the Defendant for the ultimate defense of the DWI.
In assault-related cases many times there are civil related matters, such as order of protections, that can be litigated immediately. Successfully defending these matters can dramatically alter the course of the underlying criminal charge.
In the matter of a Drug case, the Defendant should seek an attorney immediately in order to lay out the ground work for what legal challenges may be faced and personal changes not need to be made in order to secure a successful disposition that will set the Defendant up for future success and not future arrests.
Regardless of the type of case, the concept is essentially the same. The earlier I can gather facts of the case and advise my client as to what needs to be done to assist me, the greater the opportunity my client can get their life back on track.