If you are charged with a crime, you are likely facing serious consequences, ranging from a permanent criminal record to incarceration. A simple mistake or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can result in misdemeanor and felony charges. You are constitutionally entitled to legal representation during the criminal justice process and have the right to retain a private Forest City criminal defense lawyer, even if you qualify for a public defender.
A lawyer can:
- File for discovery
- Interview and subpoena witnesses
- Contest the charges against you
- Discuss a plea agreement with prosecutors
- Represent you at hearings
Some criminal charges in North Carolina that we represent clients for include:
- Drug possession
- Disorderly conduct
Criminal sentencing is based on several factors, such as:
- The severity of your charges
- Prior criminal history
- The facts of the case
- Likelihood of reoffending
When you are arrested, you have a right to refuse to give self-incriminating statements to police officers or prosecutors under your fifth amendment rights (including your Miranda rights, as affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona,) 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966). You also have a right to retain a lawyer, who can ensure that your constitutional rights are protected. Following an arrest, it is important to remain calm and understand your right to an initial hearing—where a magistrate can set your pretrial release conditions—is guaranteed without delay.
There are several important rights you have during a criminal case in North Carolina, such as:
- The right to know your charges
- The ability to face your accuser
- Access to the evidence the State has against you in all felony cases
- An impartial jury trial for felonies and appealed misdemeanors
- Reasonable bail considering certain factors
- Due process
If you were charged with a crime, call Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC today at (828) 286-3866.
How Charges Are Initiated
You can be charged by a written summons or citation, which means you will not be arrested, but instead are required to attend a pre-scheduled hearing. If you receive a summons or citation, you can retain a Forest City criminal defense lawyer to represent you before your scheduled hearing.
You can also be arrested with or without a warrant. When an arrest warrant is issued, you may be allowed to turn yourself in. Arrests without a warrant occur in situations where an officer witnesses or has probable cause to suspect you committed a crime. An example of an arrest without a warrant can include being detained following a traffic stop, if police find drugs in your vehicle.
You can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony-level crime. Misdemeanor cases are primarily handled in District Court, while most felony cases proceed through the Superior Court.
Following an arrest, you are entitled to a first appearance without delay. Most first appearances occur within hours of your arrest. While you are not entitled to legal representation during this hearing, the magistrate may appoint you an attorney or allow you to retain private counsel.
The magistrate can release you on your own recognizance, which does not require you to provide security. The magistrate can also require you to provide security. The court may deny bail to certain charges such as the following:
- Capital offenses
- Methamphetamine manufacturing
- Gang-related crimes
- Drug trafficking
If the magistrate sets bail, a bondsman can assist you in posting bond or you can provide security (such as cash or certain unencumbered real property) to the court.
If you are facing felony charges, a first appearance will be held within 96 hours of your arrest. The first appearance does not need to be held within 96 hours if you are not in custody. During your first appearance, the judge is required to review your eligibility for pretrial release. Additionally, the judge will inform you about your right to counsel and against self-incrimination.
If you are charged with a felony, you have a right to a probable cause hearing within 15 days of the charges being instituted against you. The judge will determine if your charges are supported by probable cause. If your felony charges are dismissed or downgraded to misdemeanors only, your case will be handled in District Court
If you are released on bail or on your own recognizance, you may be required to adhere to certain requirements, such as:
- Appearing at all future hearings
- Avoiding drug and alcohol use
- Not associating with individuals on probation or supervision
- Not having contact with victims or other defendants
- Not engaging in criminal activity
If you violate the terms of your pretrial release, your bond can be revoked. You may want to discuss your case and your pretrial release conditions with a lawyer.
Call Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC today at (828) 286-3866 for a free consultation to discuss your criminal charges.
Sentencing in North Carolina is governed by the Structured Sentencing Training and Reference Manual published by the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission. The sentencing guidelines consider the classification of your charges and your prior criminal history. The number of previous convictions will be used to calculate your record level, which will directly affect the severity and length of your punishment.
There are several potential sentences, including:
- Deferred prosecution
- Community service
Punishments fall under three main categories: community, intermediate, and active. Community punishments may not include supervision requirements. Intermediate punishment typically requires a period of probation and possibly incarceration. Active punishment involves incarceration. If you have minor charges and/or no prior convictions, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a deferred prosecution. Some deferred prosecution agreements do not require supervised probation but may require you to plead guilty to the charges.
Plea agreements are written documents agreed to by the prosecution and defendant and are approved by the judge. The judge will review the plea agreement, and if the judge agrees with the terms of the agreement, he will sentence you accordingly. Judge’s sentences are binding court orders, meaning that violation of the terms may result in revocation of the sentence and incarceration. If a lawyer argues your case at trial, the jury will determine whether there is enough evidence to convict you. The jury may convict you of all charges or only a portion of charges. After a trial verdict, the judge is responsible for sentencing.
Call Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC Today to Get Started
Criminal convictions can impact your career, reputation, and freedom. If an employer or landlord conducts a background check, certain convictions may disqualify you from employment or housing. You may want to retain a Forest City criminal defense lawyer following an arrest, as the legal process can be complex and scary when your freedom is at stake.
If you were charged with a crime, call Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC today at (828) 286-3866 for a free consultation.