FAQ

The police officer who arrested me failed to read me the Miranda rights. What effect does that have on my case?

An officer’s failure to administer Miranda rights is not necessarily fatal to the prosecutor’s case, but generally it will prevent the officer from being able to repeat in court any oral statement you might have made after being arrested. This could hurt the prosecutor’s case and instead help your case.

If I am stopped for a traffic violation and the law enforcement officer asks to have a look inside my vehicle, must I agree?

Certainly not! By doing this, the officer is actually asking you to give up your constitutional right to be free of an unlawful search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that residents of this country have the right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…” All states have similar constitutional and statutory provisions providing protection against searches made without probable cause.However, the courts have held that you can be stripped of this important right if you voluntarily consent to an officer’s request to search. The officer is not required to have a reason to request the search of your vehicle—you may fit a profile known to law enforcement, or the officer may just be suspicious of your looks. Furthermore, the officer does not have to inform you that you have the right to withhold consent.

I have just learned that the police and/or federal agents have come looking for me. Should I call them and arrange to meet with them?

No. You should instead have an experienced criminal defense attorney make contact with these officials to find out what is going on. In many instances, doing so can prevent your arrest and will almost always prevent law enforcement from obtaining damaging information from you. If the police or agents intend to arrest you, your attorney may arrange for your surrender on a given date, at a specific time and location that would best avoid unnecessary embarrassment or show of force. In addition, arranging surrender in this manner will have a positive impact on a court’s decision in setting bail.

I have just been arrested! What should I do?

Once you have contacted your family or friends, you should seek out an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can quickly find out as much information as possible concerning the reason for your arrest, and arrange to have you released as soon as possible.

Will I have to post bail in order to be released from custody?

This depends on a number of factors, including the effectiveness of your attorney in communicating to the court the reasons why you should be released without having to post any bail or with a low bail. Relevant factors include the seriousness of the charges against you, of the evidence against you, and any prior criminal record you may have.

If bail is set, how can I get released?

You will be released as soon as bail has been paid and the facility at which you are held confirms that the bail has been posted. An experienced defense attorney will help you to put together the necessary assets to post bail, or to work with an honest and reasonable bail bondsman to post a bond.

What if the bail set by the judge at my arraignment is too high for me to make?

One of the most important things an experienced criminal defense attorney can do for you is attempt to convince a judge that the initial decision on bail was unfair or unjust and that a lower bail figure—sometimes combined with other assurances such as surrender of passport, waiver of extradition, or electronic monitoring—are enough to secure your return to court when required.

What happens after my initial appearance before the court?

After your arraignment, the case will be adjourned to another date, courtroom and judge. At this time, your attorney can do a number of things, such as meet with the prosecutor to discuss potential dismissal or reduction of the charges, make certain motions or applications to the court, have certain evidence deemed inadmissible in court, or try to compel the prosecutor to disclose to the defense certain information or evidence. If you are charged with a felony, the case will be adjourned to monitor whether a grand jury has voted to indict you on the charges.

What will my lawyer do after the initial arraignment in court?

From the moment you hire your attorney, he or she will begin to gather information both about you and about your case from you and all other sources, including the prosecutor, any witnesses, family members, colleagues and friends. Every case is different and Mr. Petrus will tailor his approach in a way to fit your needs.

If I am charged with a felony, should I appear before the Grand Jury to hear the evidence against me?

Every person with pending felony charges against them in New York has the right to appear before the Grand Jury. After waiving their right against incriminating themselves, has the right to testify on their own behalf in an effort to persuade the Grand Jury not to vote an indictment against them. In addition, every such person has the right to make the Grand Jury aware of other witnesses and evidence which they believe would exonerate them. Also, the right to request that the Grand Jury hear such testimony and see such evidence at this stage. However, even though it is the right of a person accused of a crime to appear before the Grand Jury and to testify on his or her own behalf does not mean that doing so is a wise decision. When you testify before the Grand Jury, whatever you say may be used as evidence against you in the event you are indicted. Thus, you should thoroughly discus this option with Mr. Petrus before deciding weather to testify and let him help to prepare you for what will be one of the most important days of your life.

Will I get the money I posted for bail back at the end of my case?

Yes, provided that you appear as required in court and do not otherwise do something that ends up forfeiting your bail, at the conclusion of the case, and regardless of the outcome, you will receive back the money that you have posted as bail. However, if you are convicted of a crime, the City will retain three (3) percent of the bail posted. If the charges have been dismissed, or you have been found not guilty after trial, you will receive payment in full of all funds posted for bail.

Can I travel out of the state or country while my case is pending?

In state court, in almost all cases there are no travel restrictions placed on you and you may travel freely while out on bail. In federal court, in most cases, while out on bail (unless your release bond specifically permits it) you are not permitted to travel outside the district of prosecution and neighboring districts without obtaining special permission from the Court. Your attorney can advocate for changes to your bail conditions if you need to travel.

If I am charged with a misdemeanor, what possible sentence can I receive if I am convicted of the charge?

The maximum sentence that one can receive on any Class A misdemeanor charge is up to one year jail time or up to three years probation. For a Class B misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is six months jail time or up to one year of probation. For violations of the law that are not crimes, the maximum sentence is up to fifteen days in jail.The court may also sentence a defendant to what is called a “conditional discharge,” which is a non-probationary sentence in which you may be required to do community service or pay a fine. You may also be sentenced to an “unconditional discharge,” which has no conditions attached to it. The sentence you receive depends largely on the effectiveness of your lawyer.

What about the sentences for felony charges in New York State Court?

The sentence authorized for a New York State felony conviction depends on the class of the felony for which a person is convicted, their prior criminal record and all of the other considerations discussed above. In New York, felonies are classified by degree of seriousness from A-1, the most serious, to Class E, the least severe. However, all felonies, even of the lowest level, are a serious matter.

I am not a U.S. citizen. What can happen if I am convicted of a crime in New York State or federal court?

For those who are not citizens, criminal charges pose an even more complicated problem. If the charges are not dismissed, conviction of many crimes may mean that the Immigration and Naturalization Service will bring removal proceedings against the person and they will most certainly be deported. It is critical that non-citizens be represented by a criminal defense attorney who is aware of the potential immigration consequences of a criminal conviction and who will do everything possible to ensure that such a conviction does not take place. The Law Office of Paul D Petrus Jr., Esq. & Associate is such a firm.

If I’m convicted of a crime while I am in the United States legally on a work visa, can I be deported?

Yes. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, if you, a non-citizen of the United States, are convicted of an aggravated felony, a crime of “moral turpitude” or any one of a number of crimes in a third category (such as violations of laws relating to domestic violence, controlled substances and possessing a firearm), you are at serious risk of deportation.

I have already been convicted of a crime after a trial. What can you do for me?

Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to a new trial. You have the right to file a motion before sentencing, in which you apply for a new trial based on certain errors that may have been made at trial by the judge, or based on certain improper comments made by the prosecutor to jury, or even in some instances, based upon errors or omissions on the part of your trial attorney. There may also be other grounds available for you to seek a new trial after you have been convicted, including juror misconduct, or newly discovered evidence. Even if you have already been sentenced, we have been successful in winning clients new trials before they file their appeal on the grounds mentioned above. Of course, we have years of experience in successfully representing persons convicted of crimes on appeal to state and federal courts.

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