When Can I Assert My Rights?
Every person has the constitutional right and privilege to remain silent and to be represented by a lawyer – even if you have not been arrested or charged with a crime, and even if you have not been advised of your Miranda rights by the police. The government is not permitted to draw any inference of guilt from the fact that you assert your rights.
Do I Need a Lawyer Right Now?
Whether you are completely innocent or guilty as hell, a lawyer can help you control the time, place and circumstances under which information is provided to the government. Sometimes, the best course of action is to present your side of the case to the police or a prosecutor. In other situations, it’s best to remain silent, keeping in mind that a person accused of a crime is under no obligation to prove his or her innocence. In either event, you may not be aware of all of your options unless you first talk to a lawyer. A little sound legal advice can go a long way.
If I Speak to a Lawyer, Will it Be Kept Confidential?
A lawyer has a duty to maintain the secrets and confidences of a client. The general idea is that you should feel free to fully discuss all of the facts and circumstances surrounding whatever it is that happened so that your lawyer can give you sound legal advice about all of your options.
What Happens at Arraignment?
If you have been arrested for a crime or cited to appear in court, your arraignment is the first formal appearance before a judge. It is not your trial. The judge will provide you with a copy of the charging document and ask if you are correctly named in it.
Oftentimes, a lawyer will waive the formal reading of the charging document and the advice of rights on behalf of a client. This does not mean that you have given up any of those rights; it just means that you don’t need the judge to read the charging document to you or to advise you of your rights in open court.
Unless you already have a lawyer, the judge will ask you about what arrangements you intend to make regarding representation. If you are indigent, the judge will ask if you intend to apply for court-appointed counsel.
The judge will also make at least a preliminary decision about whether a person will be released from custody pending further proceedings in the case, and if so, what the conditions of release will be. Sometimes, the judge will set the case for a release hearing on a later date so that the lawyers can acquire more information and the judge can make a better-informed decision.
Why Do I Feel So Overwhelmed?
You’re not alone. It’s common to feel as if all the forces of the state are aligned against you. Make no mistake, they are. You need a lawyer to put your case and, more importantly, to put you as a person, into perspective. To prosecutors and judges alike, you can be just another name, just another case, caught up in the criminal justice system. We know that things are never so black and white. It’s our job to show you’re a real person – with a history and a story.