FAQ

Scales of justice - FAQ

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q -

Do I need a lawyer?

A -

Since you are asking the question, likely so. The only way to know for certain is to request a consultation. I often don’t charge for an initial consultation. Where a consultation is more involved I may charge an hourly fee, but will count that payment toward the cost of hiring me to represent you.

Q -

My child is in trouble. What do I do?

A -

Call me and discuss the situation. I can usually determine the status and seriousness of the problem. In Juvenile cases, there is an early determination about how the District Attorney and Probation Department want to proceed. Early preparation and communication with the DA and PO can make all the difference. Time may be of the essence.

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Should I hire a lawyer if I am guilty?

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Absolutely. There is still a sentence to negotiate. Also, there might be a problem with admissibility of evidence. The District Attorney has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Q -

I am charged with Domestic Violence, and the alleged victim doesn’t want to prosecute. What do I do?

A -

The prosecution is not a civil case. It isn’t brought by a person, but by the People of the State of CA as represented by the DA. The prosecutor is usually funded by a State grant, often making these cases difficult to negotiate. The DA would often rather go to trial and lose than dismiss. On the other hand, the alleged victim has a voice that needs to be heard, and their input can definitely impact the outcome of a case. Typically the defense employs a licensed private investigator who interviews the alleged victim and then writes a report that can be shared with the prosecution if favorable. Consequences of a conviction includes loss of the right to possess firearms, a 52 week class, jail time, protective orders, loss of access to a residence, reduction of child custody, fines, and maybe a felony. Call for a consultation asap.

Q -

I was arrested for DUI. What now?

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Call immediately, a clock is ticking. In addition to the court case, there is a DMV administrative action and you lose your right to a DMV hearing 10 days after the arrest. Requesting a contested DMV hearing not only might preserve your driver’s license, but could also get you a copy of the police report in advance of the court date. Coordination between DMV and the Court could save you months of Driver’s License suspension. DUI defenses are sometimes related to being able to prove driving, and often are related to calculating a blood alcohol level at the time of driving (which is different than the time of the test). Sometimes a defense expert is needed to testify to the blood alcohol level at the time of driving. Some DUIs are related to prescription or nonprescription drugs. These cases are very different than alcohol cases because there is no “presumed limit” where everyone is presumed under the influence. Much depends on the observed driving and the arresting officer’s observations.

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Is what I tell you confidential?

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Absolutely. I am here to help. The only possible exception is where a client reveals an intention to do future crime. Attorney/client privilege is critical so that clients can speak freely with their attorney. It is not uncommon for a defense to reveal itself during a frank conversation. This includes having conversations about difficult cases involving sexual misconduct, substance abuse, mental illness, theft, or assault. The nature of the alleged offense makes no difference.

Q -

It wasn’t on me! How can I be charged?

A -

Many crimes involve “possession”. Possession can be actual or constructive. Actual means having something on you. Constructive means you can exercise control over something if you want to. Constructive possession counts the same as actual possession. However, possession requires an element of knowledge. You have to know something is there in order to possess it.

Q -

I wasn’t read my rights. Shouldn’t this be dismissed?

A -

Everyone knows Miranda Rights from TV. However, Miranda is triggered by arrest, not mere detention. Without arrest, there is no obligation to advise of Miranda rights. If Miranda rights should have been given, but were not, the trial court might exclude any admissions. Any other properly obtained evidence can still come in against the defendant.

Q -

What is a Preliminary Examination?

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When a defendant is charged with a felony, they are arraigned on a charging document called a complaint. Nearly always a Not Guilty and Denial is entered, which allows for a conference date to be set prior to a Preliminary Examination. The Preliminary Examination is an evidentiary hearing where the DA has to present enough evidence to show there is something to argue about when viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution. The issue is not guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.. The rules are very different than trial. Hearsay through a qualified police officer is allowed, which would not be allowed at trial. There are tactical considerations to consider at a Preliminary Hearing. Search motions could be brought, but then the defense might lose that opportunity in the trial court. The DA can amend later to allege additional crimes proven at the preliminary Examination. Many lawyer retainer agreements cover arraignment on the Complaint through the Preliminary Examination, with a separate fee if the case is headed to trial.

Q -

Should I talk to the police?

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You have a 5th Amendment right to remain silent, whether or not you have been arrested and Mirandized. We all know “anything you say can be used against you.” Think about that. It doesn’t say the police promise to provide a considered and analytical approach to a potentially complex and convoluted problem! Exercise your right to remain silent.

Q -

Should I use a Public Defender?

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In the United States, every criminal defendant has a right to counsel. If you can’t afford to hire an attorney, the Public Defender will be appointed to represent you. You might be assigned a highly qualified attorney. You don’t get a say in who the attorney will be. Public Defenders have a broad range of experience. Public Defenders often have crushing caseloads, so lack of communication is frequently a problem. Hiring an attorney gives you choice, as well as increases the likelihood of hiring an attorney who is responsive. If you could afford an attorney, but used a Public Defender, the County may seek attorney costs at the completion of the case. If you request a Public Defender, it is common to have to fill out an Income and Expense form using a declaration under penalty of perjury.

Q -

Someone I care about is in custody. What do I do?

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Call immediately for a consultation. They likely need a lawyer, and may need a reputable bail bond agency. The usual bail bond contract involves the agency posting the full amount in exchange for 10% as a fee. However, the amount can be variable, and sometimes the percentage rate is less if an attorney has been hired. Attorneys can have a professional visit with jail inmates, and inmates can make a confidential phone call to an attorney. (Sometimes, conversations are too sensitive to have over the phone).

Q -

Can you get me off?

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Perhaps you mistake my profession? It is unethical for an attorney to promise a specific outcome. The Judge and prosecutor have much to say about how a case will resolve. If I have enough data I can often make predictions about potential outcomes.

Q -

How can a lawyer represent me if they don’t believe me?

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It sometimes happens that I tell a client a jury is unlikely to accept a version of events and therefore won’t find a “reasonable doubt”. Every client deserves to know what a jury is likely to think. I have the advantage of having stood before juries on many occasions. I can often help with that. I am not the jury, merely a predictor of what I think a jury will do. The client is not obligated to agree with me, but it is an opportunity for frank discussion.

Q -

Will my case go to trial?

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Ultimately, that is entirely the client’s decision. I will provide guidance so you will make the best decision for you.

Q -

Will I testify?

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You cannot be called as a witness against yourself. You can choose to testify, but if you do you are subject to cross examination by the DA. Whether or not a Defendant will testify is a tactical decision to be made my the Defendant with the assistance of their attorney.

Q -

I have witnesses. Will you talk to them?

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Defense lawyers work with licensed private investigators to interview potential witnesses and write a report. That report can be supplied to the DA if the witness is favorable. This method is much better than a Defendant interviewing a witness because it it is less likely to be accused of manipulating testimony or even accused of the crime of dissuading a witness. It also keeps the attorney from having a potential conflict by becoming a witness.

Q -

What if I need expert witnesses?

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Defense attorneys work with a broad range of experts. Experts in more common fields are frequently consulted. Defense attorneys need diverse knowledge in many areas so that they can to examine experts in fields as diverse as DNA. latent fingerprints, ballistics, forensic pathology, medicine, dentistry, counseling, substance abuse, and mental health.

Q -

Will you take payments?

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I am not a bank. On the other hand, I am not a jerk. It is common for clients to need to spread out a payment over a couple paychecks. I am open to reasonable suggestions, and the courts frequently cooperate when I am trying to continue a case to arrange for the retainer. In general, I ask for the fee up front and deposit it in my trust account until earned.

Q -

What will an attorney cost?

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That is a very difficult question to answer without knowing what the case involves. There are many factors including any investigation, experts, motions, misdemeanor v. felony, trial v. settlement. After a consultation, I can usually answer the question.

Q -

How many cases have you won?

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Many, but lawyers don’t have a batting average. Part of the problem is defining what a win is. If a Defendant gets 10 years instead of 25 to life, is that a win? Is only a Not Guilty a win? It depends on the individual Defendant’s expectations, and then only if they have reasonable expectations.

Q -

What if CPS might take my kids?

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Call me immediately. There are tactical considerations that appear early and impact your ability to prevent removal or get them back as soon as possible. Parents and children have a right to appointed counsel if they cannot afford an attorney. In that case, the attorney will usually be met for the first time at Detention. One of the advantages of hiring an attorney is that you can get advice prior to a Detention.

Q -

Can I sue CPS?

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Sometimes. The County’s conduct has to violate the parent’s or child’s State or Federal Constitutional rights. I can help you evaluate your situation and can help you find the right attorney.

Q -

Can I sue the DA?

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Only in very limited circumstances, so probably not.

Q -

Can I sue someone for lying?

A -

Doing so is likely cost prohibitive since you would be paying an attorney by the hour. Maybe a better choice is a restraining order?

Q -

What if I need a lawyer outside your field?

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I know many attorneys in many fields, and there is a good chance I can point you in the right direction. That’s what neighbors are supposed to do. I will help if I can.

Have another question? Contact me today.

Helping People Just Like You for Over 35 Years

4,500+

DUI cases

3,000+

CRIMINAL DEFENSE CASES

2,500+

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES

10,000+

Total cases FROM PUBLIC DEFENDER TO PRIVATE PRACTICE