Criminal Law and Appeals
Long, Knight, Huff-Harris & Hagan, P.C. can provide you with experienced representation and defense of any criminal offense you are suspected or have been charged. We can also assist you in the appeals process if you have already been convicted and even post-conviction relief. While you may have the right to obtain free legal representation from the court, this is not always the most favorable option and may lead to a wrongful conviction.
We defend our clients in both misdemeanor and felony cases. Misdemeanors are offenses that are punishable by a term of less than one year. Misdemeanors are further broken down into levels. A Level 1 misdemeanor has a maximum penalty of 6 months or less. Level 2 misdemeanors have a maximum penalty of 6 months, but less than a year. Felony offenses are punishable by a term of one year or more and vary in jail time depending on the crime.
Our attorneys can provide criminal defense for crimes including but not limited to: driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving under the influence (DUI), operating under the influence (OUI), traffic and motor vehicle offenses, guns and weapon charges, assault and battery, larceny, theft, property crimes, Federal crimes and charges, domestic violence, administrative licensing defense (professional licenses).
Long, Knight, Huff-Harris & Hagan, P.C. can assist you in every step of the trial process. While each case will have a different set of facts, they follow the same trial procedure for the most part. It is important to understand the steps in the process so that you know what to expect and do not accidently incriminate yourself or jeopardize your defense.
The first step in the process is the citation. This may occur before or during an arrest, or you may even be told you will receive a citation in the mail. If you received a citation, it is advisable to contact an attorney immediately for advice on how to proceed. Remember, anything you say or do may be used against you in court; therefore you should receive advice on what is acceptable to tell the police and the court and what is not.
Once you have received a citation, the prosecutor’s office will schedule a magistrate’s hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence obtained to charge you with a crime. This hearing is essentially used to show cause (probable cause) to charge an individual with a criminal offense. Having an attorney present during this hearing could allow you to provide an argument to get the case dropped before you even get charged.
Arraignment is a hearing before a judge to inform you of the crimes you have been charged with. Arraignment can occur after an arrest, or it may occur after a citation and summons to appear. In most cases, defendants have an attorney present during this step of the process. During the arraignment you will also be asked to enter you plea as to the criminal offense (ie: guilty vs. not guilty).
Upon your arrest you may be required to pay a bail. Upon fulfilling the obligation to the court of appearing for all of the hearings, bail is generally returned to you. If you don’t have enough money to pay for the bail yourself, there are various bail bond companies who will do so for you in exchange for a minimal fee. In determining the rate at which your bail will be set, the judge considers, among other factors, your flight risk and the alleged crime involved. For instance, if the crime you have been charged with is your first offense, the bail fee will usually be lower. If your offense is considered more egregious, such as murder, then your bail fee may be higher or you may not receive bail at all. A criminal defense attorney can assist you in negotiating your bail fee as well as obtaining a bail bond if you cannot afford the fee out of your own pocket.
The pre-trial conference is a private meeting that occurs between you, your attorney and the prosecutor. During the pre-trial conference, a plea bargain (or a settlement in exchange for pleading guilty) may be discussed or offered by the prosecution. The prosecutor may also offer a more lenient charge in exchange for a specified action (ie: testifying against another individual). During the plea bargain negotiation the prosecutor can offer you what is referred to as a “no contest plea”. The no contest plea still means that you are admitting there is evidence against you to substantiate the crime, but it is perceived much more positively on your criminal record. With a no contest plea, you can legally state that you were never convicted of the alleged crime, however, it would be considered a prior offense if you are suspected of another crime in the future.
If there is not a meeting of the minds during the pre-trial hearing, the next step is trial. Before trial, there may be various other motion hearings, but these widely depend on the case and the facts involved. The length of trials may range from one day to several months and include selection of jury (voir dire), opening statements, presentment of evidence, questioning witnesses and closing statements. During trial, your defense attorney has the opportunity to point out all of the flaws in the prosecutions case against you in order to return a favorable verdict from the jury.
If you are found guilty, or convicted, at trial, the judge will continue to sentencing. Sentencing may occur immediately if the crime is a misdemeanor or minor offense or may be postponed to a later date if the crime is a felony. The judge may take statements from victims along with many other types of evidence in consideration during the sentencing hearing.
Long, Knight, Huff-Harris & Hagan, P.C. can assist you in appealing your criminal verdict if you feel that you have been wrongfully convicted of a crime, were ineffectively assisted by legal counsel or believe the judge made an error. In order to appeal a criminal conviction you must file a notice of appeal within 30 days of your conviction or sentencing (whichever is later).
The process for an appeal can be a lengthy one, but is very rewarding if you win your appeal. There are many formalities to follow and our attorneys can assist you with these formalities. It is important to contact us as soon after your conviction as possible so that our attorneys can order a transcript and begin the defense for your appeal.
Once the notice of appeal is filed, a legal brief detailing arguments as to why the conviction should be overturned is filed with the court. Once the judge has had the opportunity to review the brief, the court will summon you to a hearing on the merits of the appeal. During this hearing, oral arguments may occur and the judge will ask many questions with regard to the brief as well as the issues argued.
Common grounds for a criminal appeal include, but are not limited to:
An unconstitutional sentence [sentence beyond the sentencing guidelines for the crime committed];
- A sentence that does not conform to what was agreed upon during a plea bargain;
- The jury receiving and considering evidence which they should not have in the verdict determination;
- Errors of law made before or during the trial with regard to motions and/or objections [i.e.: motions to suppress evidence, motions to suppress confessions and/or denying objections to certain evidence or testimony];
- Prosecution withholding evidence;
- Juror bias or a juror undertaking independent research on the case outside of the court evidence;
- Incorrect jury instructions; and/or
- Insufficient evidence to justify the conviction.
Having a knowledgeable and experienced criminal appeals attorney by your side can give you the representation you need to win your criminal appeal. Winning your criminal appeal can provide you with the following remedies:
- Grant of a new trial;
- An offer of a plea agreement with the prosecution; or
- Reversal of the entire verdict.
Post-conviction relief allows a person convicted of a crime to request that the court to review their case due to new evidence that did not exist at the time of the trial and/or appeal. Similar to the criminal appeal, a motion for post-conviction relief is required to be filed with the court within a predetermined time limit. Untimely motions may be denied; therefore, it is important to contact Long, Knight, Huff-Harris & Hagan, P.C. immediately after your conviction. Remedies offered include: an opportunity for a new trial, an offer of a plea agreement with the prosecution or the court may even overturn the entire verdict.