Do not answer any questions without an attorney present. If you are being investigated for DUI, do not perform any field sobriety tests. Remember, you have a right to remain silent and your silence can never be used against you. Because anything you say may be held against you in court, it is critical that you wait until an attorney is present before answering any questions.
The criminal case process can be extremely intimidating. The nature of the process depends on the type of charge (misdemeanor or felony) and the court that charges are brought in (superior, justice or municipal). Once you have been arrested or charged, you will have to be seen by a judge for what is called an arraignment.
At that time, you will tell the judge whether you plead guilty or not guilty. Always plead not guilty. When you do, the judge will set a date and time for a pretrial conference. In some felony cases a preliminary hearing will be set so the judge can determine if there is sufficient evidence to support the charges. The purpose of the pretrial conference is to give the prosecutor and defendant an opportunity to negotiate and possibly come to a plea, or deal, regarding the charges. Your attorney should always require the prosecutor to provide any relevant evidence in the case before any decisions are made. There may be several pretrial conferences in any given case depending upon the charges.
If no agreements are reached, the case will be set for trial. The entire process may take several months.
Generally, a criminal defendant may retain an attorney at any stage of the case. However, it is imperative that the defendant retains counsel as soon as possible. This will ensure that the attorney has enough time to properly prepare for the case. If a defendant cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint a public defender to represent the defendant. While public defenders are competent attorneys, they also carry enormous caseloads. In some cases, public defenders may not have the time or resources to give special attention to every case.
For this reason, many defendants do not receive the same quality defense they would have received had they retained a private attorney. For this reason, it is recommended that you seriously consider hiring a private criminal defense attorney to represent you.
If you are under arrest and want to know your rights immediately, call the emergency criminal line/after-hours number (480) 503-9217.