What to Do When Facing Your First Felony Charge
Being charged with a felony, regardless of the specific crime, is a very serious matter. Even a first offense can lead to significant prison time, on top of heavy fines and other secondary penalties and consequences. If you are charged with a felony, there are certain steps to take and pitfalls to avoid to protect your rights, strengthen your case, and avoid making matters worse for yourself. Contact a seasoned Ventura felony defense attorney for additional tips or if you have been charged with a crime in California.
Know what offense you are facing
If you are arrested or charged with a crime, you have the right to know the exact offense with which you are being charged. Knowing the crime of which you are accused is vital in preparing your defense, beginning to consider whether a plea is appropriate, and managing your expectations of the appropriate next steps.
Many people do not know the technical difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are punishable by time in county jail (up to one year) and fines, or both. Felonies, on the other hand, are punishable by incarceration in a state prison or county jail, as well as heavy fines and restitution to any victims. Felony convictions often carry additional penalties such as limitations on your right to vote, prohibitions on firearm ownership, and citizenship consequences. It is important that you know the specific crime you are facing and what penalties a conviction may carry.
Contact an attorney immediately
If you are charged with any crime, retaining an attorney should be one of your first moves. If the crime is a felony, it is even more critical. Every moment that you sit in custody or wait for pending further action without contacting a lawyer is hurting your case. A qualified criminal defense attorney will not only help you start building your case but will also guide you through the technicalities of the law to avoid unnecessary consequences. Your attorney may be able to negotiate your release pending trial, for example, allowing you to get your affairs in order in advance of you taking a plea or standing trial. Your attorney will help you decide if a plea bargain is appropriate and will have a much stronger chance of negotiating a less onerous charge as part of the deal. Police and prosecutors are trained to go after felony defendants as hard as they can to browbeat them into taking an unfavorable deal; your attorney will make sure that they apply the law fairly and justly and that your rights and defenses are protected and enforced.
Be honest with your attorney
Your lawyer is there to protect your rights and make sure that the government does not throw the book at you and railroad you through the system. In order to provide you with your strongest defense, your attorney must have the most accurate information about your case. If you withhold information from your attorney or mislead them, you run the risk of the government bringing something up in court or plea negotiations that completely derails the strategy your attorney has put together. Your case will be weakened overall, and your attorney will have to be more cautious in taking you at your word.
Your relationship with your attorney is protected by the attorney-client privilege. That means that what you say to your attorney in connection with your case will be kept confidential. Your attorney will not share that information with anyone–the judge, the prosecutor, your family, anyone. If your lawyer does share details about your case, they will face severe discipline, including the possibility of losing their license to practice law. Hire an attorney you can trust, and then trust them. The more honest and detailed your account of the case, the better your attorney will be able to fight for your rights.
Help with Felony Charges in Ventura County
If you are facing criminal charges in southern California, get seasoned, effective and dedicated legal help by contacting the Ventura offices of Paul Tyler for a free consultation at 805-889-9000.