The following is an article my law partner, who is a Albuquerque criminal defense lawyer, wrote. If you need more information about criminal defense, see our criminal defense practice page on our website. Stay tuned because I will also be posting an article that my other law partner, who is an Albuquerque dwi attorney wrote over the topic of DUI and DWI.
There are two main categories or classifications of crimes: Misdemeanors and Felonies. Misdemeanor charges are less complicated and less serious than felonies, but that does not mean that they can simply be disregarded. Misdemeanor convictions will remain on your criminal record forever and could possibly damage future employment prospects, credit ratings and even your personal reputation. Ideally, you are in a position to be able to afford to hire a criminal defense attorney, enabling you to employ the best defense lawyer in your community. If, however, you cannot afford a private attorney, the court will appoint a public defender to represent you and your interests.
The misdemeanor citation given to you will tell you when you must appear in court. DO NOT disregard this notice. Failure to appear on time for your court date could potentially result in the issuance of a warrant for your arrest. Once you have either hired your defense attorney or one has been appointed to you, you will want to provide any and all information you have regarding your case. The decision to leave out the smallest of details or misrepresent the truth in any way could possibly have disastrous results for you in the long term. Even though a detail or fact may seem small or insignificant to you, your defense lawyer might be able to use that detail in his or her constructed strategy of defense.
Your defense lawyer will serve as your defender and your guide through the labyrinth of the legal system. He or she is trained in the rules of procedure, evidence and courtroom practice. It is precisely this heightened expertise that you are paying for. Your lawyer can dispute evidence or testimony presented against you in court or through statements or depositions. Likewise, your defense lawyer can create a comprehensive strategy for your defense, focusing on jury perceptions, media relations, damage control, and a number of elements of a trial that are often not considered by members of the greater public; most of these higher end strategies are typically used for more serious crimes however. If you are truly innocent, it is your lawyer that is best suited to assist you in show the judge or jury that you are innocent.
The situation can be more clouded if you are actually guilty of the charged misdemeanor. Your defense lawyer will possibly even encourage you to plead guilty if there is an offer for a reduced charge or reduced sentence. That being said, because misdemeanor charges are generally less serious and carry less extensive punishments, these settlement agreements are usually made outside of court and before your actual trial.
It is certainly your option to not hire a private attorney and to not accept a court appointed public defender for your misdemeanor case. This is generally referred to as defending your case “pro se”. However, because you, the accused may not have sufficient experience, information or knowledge about the law, the charges and the procedures of the court, this is not the suggested path to take for most defendants in most situations. Hiring a good defense attorney, even for your less serious misdemeanor charges, may save you time, money and perhaps even your liberty.