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Essential first step if you have been charged with a crime

If law enforcement authorities have charged you with a crime, you are inevitably now part of the complex legal system of your state. Especially if this is your first arrest, there will likely be many procedures that you have never faced before, as well as responsibilities and requirements that you may not be aware of.

Seeking an aggressive criminal defense attorney is likely one of the essential first steps you should take if you face criminal charges. It is not advisable to face the criminal justice and legal system on your own.

Finding the right attorney

Selecting an attorney, especially if you do not already have one, can be one of the most important things you will do in terms of building your defense against the criminal charges you face. Some critical questions you should ask include the following:

  • How many years of experience do you have in defending clients against charges like mine?
  • What is your familiarity with the courts, judges and prosecutors who work in my community?
  • How do you develop a defense strategy for your clients?
  • How do you determine if my case goes to trial or not?

In some cases, your defense attorney can work with you and the court system to propose alternatives to jail time, such as with drug crimes. In Virginia, for example, there is a special diversion program available to some defendants who are up against possession charges. Through that program, known as a 251 Diversion, a defendant may be able to seek drug treatment along with other mandatory steps and in so doing avoid going to prison.

Facing the court system

The way that court cases move through the justice system is a multi-faceted process that depends on the specific charges you face. The American Bar Association created a diagram showing how court cases proceed in the system. There are several steps in the process. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning at any time, beginning from the time of your arrest. Your case will proceed differently through the courts depending on whether authorities have charged you with a misdemeanor or a felony.

Having an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you as your case moves through the justice system is one way you can be as prepared as possible to effectively face your criminal charges. An attorney can guide you through the system and help you determine the strategy that will best suit the charges you are up against.

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