Criminal Defense Frequently Asked Questions

Being charged with a crime, or being under investigation, can be one of the most difficult and stressful times of your life. The experience can leave you feeling helpless and convinced that the system is stacked against you. But with expert legal representation, that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, the burden of proof is on the system, and the dedicated attorneys at LaMarche Safranko Law can help guide you through the process. We will determine the pertinent facts, uncover any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and discuss with you all possible options and outcomes.

Commonly asked criminal defense questions and answers

I have no criminal history. How will that help my case?

It is important to understand that the absence of a criminal history does not change the facts of the case you and your attorney are defending. If the case is decided by a judge or jury, the verdict will be determined by the facts as presented and argued by the prosecution and the defense. Should you be convicted, however, your otherwise clean record can weigh in your favor as the judge determines the severity of your sentence. A clean record also can also help your lawyer negotiate a more favorable plea bargain.

What can I do to help my lawyer(s) defend my criminal case?

For starters, follow their advice. They’re the experts; that’s why you hired them. Be completely honest with your lawyer (anything you disclose is protected by attorney-client privilege). Deliver any information or documents your lawyer requests as quickly as possible. Make all scheduled court appearances; be prompt, dress appropriately, and show respect for the court. Stay in regular contact with your attorney, but don’t call every day to see if there’s anything new. Seek counseling (mental health, substance misuse, etc.) if recommended by your lawyer or the court. And of course, don’t get arrested again!

What is an arraignment?

This is the first stage of the courtroom-based criminal proceeding. After suspects are arrested, fingerprinted and photographed, they are called before a judge, who formally reads the charges and asks for a plea. It’s also at this time that the judge will consider whether bail should be set.

What is the difference between probation and parole?

Both probation and parole are alternatives to incarceration. However, while parole is granted as an early release from prison with time already served, probation refers to a period of supervision—often instead of jail or prison—with conditions attached that a defendant must comply with to remain out of jail or prison.

Will a conviction stay on my record for the rest of my life?

In New York state, thanks to a record-sealing law passed in 2017, you are now eligible to have a broad range of convictions—felony and misdemeanor—sealed from public view after a ten-year waiting period. Sex crimes and violent felonies are excluded.

What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

Generally, a felony is charged when the alleged conduct of the defendant is more serious. The technical distinction is one of maximum punishment. If a crime carries a maximum incarceration of one year or less, it is a misdemeanor; more than a year and it rises to a felony. Serious crimes such as murder, rape, arson, robbery, grand larceny, and kidnapping are felonies; petit larceny, minor drug or marijuana offenses, etc., are misdemeanors. With many crime categories, such as drug offenses, assault, and theft, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the severity of the offense.

What is restitution?

When a crime results in financial loss to the victim, the court determines the amount of restitution that is owed. Agreeing to pay restitution up front can often be a factor in negotiating a more favorable plea bargain.

What is the “3 in 25” rule regarding DWIs and other serious driving offenses?

A New York state driver who has any combination of three alcohol- or drug-related driving convictions or “Serious Driving Offenses” within a period of 25 years is not permitted to apply for a reinstatement of his or her driver’s license for five years dating from the end of the mandatory suspension period for the third offense. “Serious Driving Offenses” include a fatal crash, a driving-related penal law conviction, an accumulation of 20 or more points for driving violations during the 25 years, or two or more driving convictions each assessed five points or higher.

Can charges get worse after I’ve already been charged?

Yes. If an ongoing investigation reveals that additional charges are warranted, the police, the district attorney’s office, or a grand jury can choose to charge you with additional offenses even if you have already been charged.  It’s important to avoid all actions that might incriminate you of further crimes. These include talking to the police (you have the right to tell them you can’t talk without your lawyer), talking to other people about the case, and posting about your case on social media. Keep quiet in public, and work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can do all the talking for you.

What is an ACOD (Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal)?

In New York state, an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal is an agreement between the district attorney and the defendant to have the defendant’s case adjourned for 6 months (up to 12 months in marijuana cases) with a view toward having the case dismissed. When granting an ACOD, certain conditions may be imposed during the period before the targeted date of dismissal, including community service, restitution, treatment, counseling, avoiding contact with a victim, and/or maintaining a clean arrest record. Upon or after dismissal of the charge, the court shall order that all official records and papers relating to the defendant’s arrest and prosecution be sealed and not made available to any person or public or private agency, with certain limited exceptions, pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law section 160.50.

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LaMarche Safranko Law PLLC

LaMarche Safranko Law PLLC